The relative potential of the pathogenic fungi Beauveria bassiana and Zoophthora radicans for use as autodisseminated biological control agents of the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) was compared. The LC50 of B. bassiana conidia to third instar larvae was 499 conidia/mm(2) of leaf surface and individual cadavers of mycosed fourth instar larvae yielded a mean of 67.5 X 10(6) (+/- 7.5 x 10(6)) conidia. All concentrations of B. bassiana tested in inoculation chambers (0.24, 2.4, and 6.2 mug/mm(2)) induced 100% mortality in adult male moths within 7 days. The times to death and sporulation were concentration and exposure duration dependent. A standard procedure for inoculating male moths resulted in > 85% mortality from Z. radicans and > 93% mortality from B. bassiana. Pairing of inoculated males with clean moths of both sexes yielded higher rates of passive transmission of B. bassiana than Z. radicans, but there was no evidence for sexual transmission of either pathogen. Similarly, B. bassiana was more effectively transmitted from inoculated male moths to larvae foraging on whole plants. Single sporulating cadavers producing B. bassiana or Z. radicans conidia placed on plants infested with larvae resulted in a similar rate of transmission for both pathogens. However, an increase of the density of sporulating cadavers from one to three/plant increased Z. radicans transmission (greater than fourfold) but had no effect on B. bassiana transmission. Simultaneous inoculations of larvae with conidia of both fungi reduced the mortality induced by each pathogen, the reduction being most acute for B. bassiana-induced mortality. Inoculation of adults with both fungi showed that, at concentrations required for effective passive transmission to larvae, B. bassiana severely inhibited Z. radicans mycosis in adults. (C) 2001 Academic Press.