We examined 17 pairs of near-isogenic hybrids of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (176, Mon810, and Bt11) and non-Bt corn, Zea mays L., to examine the effects of Bt on larval densities of Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) and Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) during 2 yr. During ear formation, instar densities of H. zea and S. frugiperda were recorded for each hybrid. We found that H. zea first, second, and fifth instar densities were each affected by Mon810 and Bt11 Bt corn but not by 176 corn. Surprisingly, first and second instars were found in higher numbers on ears of Mon810 and Bt11 corn than on non-Bt corn. Densities of third and fourth instars were equal on Bt and non-Bt hybrids, whereas densities of fifth instars were lower on Bt plants. S. frugiperda larval densities were only affected during 1 yr when second, and fourth to sixth instars were lower on ears of Mon810 and Bt11 hybrids compared with their non-Bt counterparts. Two likely explanations for early instar H. zea densities being higher on Bt corn than non-Bt corn are that 1) Bt toxins delay development, creating a greater abundance of early instars that eventually die, and 2) reduced survival of H. zea to later instars on Bt corn decreased the normal asymmetric cannibalism or H. zea–S. frugiperda intraguild predation of late instars on early instars. Either explanation could explain why differences between Bt and non-Bt plants were greater for H. zea than S. frugiperda, because H. zea is more strongly affected by Bt toxins and more cannibalistic.
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