The oviposition behavior of adult insects can have a major impact on the level of exposure of their offspring to natural and artificial toxins. Pollen from Bt-corn hybrids represents a novel toxin and very little is known regarding its detection and possible avoidance by ovipositing females. The effect of corn plant proximity and corn pollen presence on the oviposition behavior of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus (L.), was assessed in cage and flight chamber studies. The proportions of monarch eggs oviposited on milkweed plants dusted pollen from with a Bt-corn hybrid, an untransformed hybrid, gravel dust, and undusted control plants were recorded from a cage study. None of the treatments differed significantly in the relative proportion of eggs found. The effect of Bt and untransformed corn plant proximity and corn pollen presence was also assessed in a flight chamber. A significantly higher proportion of eggs (96%) were recovered from patches of milkweed plants not surrounded by corn plants, and a significantly higher proportion of eggs (nearly 70%) were recovered from patches of milkweed plants not dusted with corn pollen. There were no significant differences in the effects of Bt corn plants or corn pollen compared with untransformed plants or pollen. These results may have important implications for the level of exposure of monarch larvae to Bt-corn pollen.
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