The tomato leaf miner, Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera) is a significant pest of tomatoes that has undergone a rapid expansion in its range during the past six years and is now present across Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia. One of the main means of controlling this pest is through the use of chemical insecticides. In the current study insecticide bioassays were used to determine the susceptibility of five T. absoluta strains established from field collections from Europe and Brazil to pyrethroids. High levels of resistance to λ cyhalothrin and tau fluvalinate were observed in all five strains tested. To investigate whether pyrethroid resistance was mediated by mutation of the para-type sodium channel in T. absoluta the IIS4-IIS6 region of the para gene, which contains many of the mutation sites previously shown to confer knock down (kdr)-type resistance to pyrethroids across a range of different arthropod species, was cloned and sequenced. This revealed that three kdr/super-kdr-type mutations (M918T, T929I and L1014F), were present at high frequencies within all five resistant strains at known resistance 'hot-spots'. This is the first description of these mutations together in any insect population. High-throughput DNA-based diagnostic assays were developed and used to assess the prevalence of these mutations in 27 field strains from 12 countries. Overall mutant allele frequencies were high (L1014F 0.98, M918T 0.35, T929I 0.60) and remarkably no individual was observed that did not carry kdr in combination with either M918T or T929I. The presence of these mutations at high frequency in T. absoluta populations across much of its range suggests pyrethroids are likely to be ineffective for control and supports the idea that the rapid expansion of this species over the last six years may be in part mediated by the resistance of this pest to chemical insecticides.
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