Sublethal pyrethroid insecticide exposure carries positive fitness effects over generations in a pest insect.
Stress tolerance and adaptation to stress are known to facilitate species invasions. Many invasive species are also pests and insecticides are used to control them, which could shape their overall tolerance to stress. It is well-known that heavy insecticide usage leads to selection of resistant genotypes but less is known about potential effects of mild sublethal insecticide usage. We studied whether stressful, sublethal pyrethroid insecticide exposure has within-generational and/or maternal transgenerational effects on fitness-related traits in the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) and whether maternal insecticide exposure affects insecticide tolerance of offspring. Sublethal insecticide stress exposure had positive within-and transgenerational effects. Insecticide-stressed larvae had higher adult survival and higher adult body mass than those not exposed to stress. Furthermore, offspring whose mothers were exposed to insecticide stress had higher larval and pupal survival and were heavier as adults (only females) than those descending from control mothers. Maternal insecticide stress did not explain differences in lipid content of the offspring. To conclude, stressful insecticide exposure has positive transgenerational fitness effects in the offspring. Therefore, unsuccessful insecticide control of invasive pest species may lead to undesired side effects since survival and higher body mass are known to facilitate population growth and invasion success.