Although surveys of pest populations documenting evolved insecticide resistance often suggest abundant potential for insecticide control failures, studies documenting the actual occurrence of such failures in commercial agriculture are rare. If farmers currently practice adaptive management, abandoning the use of insecticides once resistance emerges, actual control failures could be rare. Here I use data gathered by independent pest management consultants to describe a case study of the realized efficacy of commercial field applications of insecticides, examining the control of Lygus hesperus Knight on cotton. On average, insecticides reduced target pest populations to 19% of their preapplication densities. Short-term efficacy of insecticides was variable, but only one severe control failure was observed (1 of 50, 2%). The rarity of severe control failures observed in this study is in agreement with the few other studies conducted in commercial settings, but additional research is needed to assess the generality of this result. Although pesticides can cause longer-term problems, including target pest resurgences and secondary pest outbreaks, risk-averse attitudes among farmers coupled with relatively consistent short-term insecticide efficacy may be potent forces propelling farmers toward the use of insecticides.
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Vol. 114 • No. 3