Use of Transgenic Plants to Measure Insect Herbivore Movement

Joseph L. Spencer, Timothy R. Mabry, Ty T. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Use of ingested transgenic corn tissue as a marker for measuring movement of adult Diabrotica virgifera virgifera (LeConte) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae; western corn rootworm) was investigated. Laboratory observations of beetles feeding on corn foliage, pollen, silks, or soybean foliage provided background on feeding patterns. The interval between food consumption and its appearance in feces (gut passage time) ranged from 102.7 ± 11 min for soybean foliage to 56.7 ± 2.9 min for corn silks. In a laboratory assay, protein expression tests identified the presence of Cry3Bb1 protein inside 50% of adult D. virgifera for up to 16 h after they had last consumed CrySBb1 protein-expressing corn silks from 'YieldGard Rootworm' corn plants (Monsanto Co.). Cry3Bb1 protein could not be detected by 32 h postfeeding. The proportion of Cry3Bb1 protein-positive beetles declined linearly with increasing time since feeding on 'YieldGard Rootworm' tissue. Approximately 20% of adult D. virgifera collected near 'YieldGard Rootworm' corn plots tested positive for Cry3Bb1 protein, indicating 'YieldGard Rootworm' tissue consumption within the last 16-32 h. Based on a 16-to 32-h postfeeding detection interval for Cry3Bb1 protein and the distance between 'YieldGard Rootworm' sources and sites where Cry3Bb1-positive insects were collected, 85.3% of males and females moved ≤4.6-9.1 m/d through R2-R3 stage corn. Among Cry3Bb1-positive adults that left corn and were captured in an adjacent soybean field, 86.4% of males and 93.1% of females moved ≤4.6-9.1 m/d through soybean. Detection of transgenic plant tissues in mobile insect herbivores is a novel application of biotechnology to the study of insect movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1738-1749
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of economic entomology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Chrysomelidae
  • Cry3Bb1
  • Diabrotica virgifera virgifera
  • Insect resistance management
  • Western corn rootworm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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