Accelerated Development and Toxin Tolerance of the Navel Orangeworm Amyelois transitella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) in the Presence of Aspergillus flavus

Daniel S. Bush, Joel P. Siegel, May R. Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella) and the fungus Aspergillus flavus constitute a facultative mutualism and pest complex in tree nut and fruit orchards in California. The possibility exists that the broad detoxification capabilities of A. flavus benefit its insect associate by metabolizing toxicants, including hostplant phytochemicals and pesticides. We examined this hypothesis by conducting laboratory bioassays to assess growth rates and survivorship of pyrethroid-resistant (R347) and susceptible (CPQ) larval strains on potato dextrose agar diet containing almond meal with and without two furanocoumarins, xanthotoxin and bergapten, found in several hostplants, and with and without two insecticides, bifenthrin and spinetoram, used in almond and pistachio orchards. Additionally, fungi were incubated in liquid diets containing the test chemicals, and extracts of these diets were added to almond potato dextrose agar (PDA) diets and fed to larvae to evaluate the ability of the fungus to metabolize these chemicals. Larvae consuming furanocoumarin-containing diet experienced higher mortality than individuals on unamended diets, but adding A. flavus resulted in up to 61.7% greater survival. Aspergillus flavus in the diet increased development rate > two-fold when furanocoumarins were present, demonstrating fungal enhancement of diet quality. Adding extracts of liquid diets containing xanthotoxin and fungus decreased mortality compared to xanthotoxin alone. On diets containing bifenthrin and spinetoram, however, mortality increased. These results support the hypothesis that A. flavus enhances navel orangeworm performance and contributes to detoxification of xenobiotics. Among practical implications of our findings, this mutualistic association should be considered in designing chemical management strategies for these pests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1170-1177
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Detoxification
  • Fungus
  • Furanocoumarin
  • Navel orangeworm
  • Pyrethroid
  • Spinosyn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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