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The effect of host plant species on performance and movement behaviour of the cabbage looper Trichoplusia ni and their potential influences on infection by Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus

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• Cabbage loopers Trichoplusia ni (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) are serious pests in greenhouses growing tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers. A potential microbial control, now in development, is the broad host-range virus Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV).

• The relationships between the three host plants and the feeding behaviour, larval movement and performance of cabbage looper larvae that might relate to their interaction with AcMNPV applications were investigated.

• Larvae reared on cucumber plants consumed approximately ten-fold more leaf area than larvae reared on pepper plants and almost five-fold more than larvae reared on tomato plants. This could influence the amount of AcMNPV consumed if it were used as a microbial spray because increased consumption can be associated with increased probability of infection. Survival from neonate to pupa also varied, with the greatest being on cucumber, followed by tomato and pepper plants. Larvae fed cucumber were approximately four-fold heavier than larvae fed tomato and over 15-fold heavier than larvae fed pepper plants.

• The distribution of larvae on plants in commercial greenhouses where a single crop was being grown also varied with food plant with 73% being found on the bottom and middle portions of tomato plants and 87% occurring in the top portions of pepper plants. Larvae tended to be distributed on the middle portion of cucumber plants, the lower portion of tomato plants and the top portion of pepper plants. Larval movement did not vary between AcMNPV-infected and uninfected controls.

• It is predicted that the higher leaf area consumption and location of larvae in the middle portion of cucumber plants may make them more susceptible to viral sprays. Furthermore, given their greater survival than larvae fed tomato and pepper, there may be a greater need for virus applications.
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Keywords: AcMNPV; Trichoplusia ni; cabbage looper; host plants; microbial control; movement behaviour

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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