Nutrition as a neglected factor in insect herbivore susceptibility to Bt toxins.
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The widespread global adoption of Bt crops elevates concerns about the evolution of Bt resistance in insect pest species. Current insecticide resistance management (IRM) strategies focus solely on genetic variation as a causal factor in the evolution of resistance, but ignore the role that environmental factors, such as nutrition, may play. In this opinion paper, we discuss the benefits that insect herbivores gain from consuming foods with protein-carbohydrate content that matches their self-selected protein-carbohydrate intake, and show that even within monocultures there is amply opportunity for insect herbivores to regulate their macronutrient intake. Next we review new data that show that dietary protein and carbohydrates can: firstly, have predictably strong effects on the survival and performance of caterpillars challenged with Bt toxins, and secondly, mediate plasticity in susceptibility to Cry1Ac, which can account for large differences in LC50 values. Nutrition-Bt interactions such as these have important implications for IRM, particularly given that diet-incorporated Bt bioassays commonly use artificial diets that vary substantially from their self-selected optimal diets, which likely results in underestimates of resistance in the field. Failing to bioassay larvae on ecologically-relevant diets can seriously confound the results of Bt resistance monitoring bioassays and undermine our ability to detect resistance in the field.