Shifts in ecological dominance between two lepidopteran species in refuge areas of Bt cotton.
Competition behavior involving agricultural pest species has long been viewed as a powerful selective force that drives ecological and phenotypic diversity. In this context, a Game Theory-based approach may be useful to describe the decision-making dilemma of a competitor with impacts to guarantee its superiority in terms of ecological dominance or sharing of the food resource with its competitor. In an attempt to elucidate the consequences of competitive dynamics for the ecological dominance of these species in refuge areas of Bt cotton, we conducted a study that was divided into two parts. The first study consisted of an evaluation of interactions involving Spodoptera frugiperda (JE Smith, 1797) and Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner, 1808) on non-Bt cotton plants in a field trial. In the second study, we explored the data matrix collected in the field to parameterize a model of Cellular Automata (CA) with update rules inspired by Game Theory. Computer simulations were analyzed in hypothetical scenarios involving the application (or not) of insecticides in the refuge areas in combination with the resistance factor of one or both pest species to the insecticides used in the refuge areas. H. armigera had superior competitive performance in relation to S. frugiperda only at high densities. According to the density-mediated shift in dominance of the species, the resistance of S. frugiperda to insecticides is seen as a risk factor for the production of susceptible individuals of H. armigera on a large scale in the refuge areas. Additionally, S. frugiperda insecticide resistance may potentially impact the resistance evolution of the H. armigera population to Bt cotton. Thus, ecological dominance could diverge by the presence of a resistance allele to insecticides with interspecific competition perhaps subordinate to evolutionary processes.