Cannabis sativa, also known as marijuana or hemp, produces a non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD). To investigate the defensive role of CBD, a feeding preference assay was performed with tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta. The larvae clearly show feeding preference towards the Cannabis tissue containing low CBD over high CBD. While the larva avoided the high CBD diet, we investigated detrimental effects of CBD in the insects’ diet. Contrasted to the performance on low CBD-infused artificial diet (AD), larvae reared on the high CBD diet suffer significantly reduced growth and increased mortality. Through testing different carriers, we found that the increase of EtOH in the diet is negatively correlated with insect development and behaviors. Notably, CBD treatment significantly improved ethanol-intoxicated larval survival rate by 40% and also improved diet searching activity, resulting in increased diet consumption. Electrophysiology results revealed that the CBD-treated ganglia had delayed but much larger response with electric stimuli in comparison to the larvae reared on AD only and EtOH-added diet. Our results show CBDs’ defensive role against pest insects, which suggests its possible use as an insecticide. We also provide evidence that CBD alleviates alcohol-induced stress; consequently, improving the performance and viability of M. sexta larvae.
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