Pareuchaetes insulata (Walker) (Lepidoptera: Erebidae: Arctiinae) was released in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, as a biological control agent against Chromolaena odorata (L.) King & Robinson (Asteraceae) between 2001 and 2009. Although the moth did establish at one out of some 30 release sites, its population level is generally low in the field. Two closely related biological control agents, P. pseudoinsulata Rego Barros and P. aurata aurata (Butler) had previously failed to establish despite several years of releases. Studies of life history traits of P. insulata (males and females) were conducted to determine whether several aspects of its developmental and reproductive biology can explain its poor performance, and to compare the development and reproductive biology of P. insulata with the two other closely related species. At 25 °C, overall mortality of immature stages was generally low (below 12 %). Although the duration of the larval life stage was statistically longer for females, overall they eclosed as adults before the males (i.e. protogyny). Pupal mass, growth rate and total leaf area consumed were higher in females. Mated females laid 74 % of their eggs on the first four nights following eclosion and lived an average of 5.92 ± 0.19 days. The moth also showed good biological attributes such as high fecundity (number of eggs), egg hatchability and female mating success (the number of matings that resulted in fertile eggs). Significant positive correlations were detected between insect performance metrics and leaf consumption and between fecundity and pupal mass. A 23 % greater lifetime reproductive output (387.62 ± 19.50 eggs per female) for P. insulata compared with P. aurata aurata was recorded. We hypothesize that the absence of protandry in P. insulata might have contributed to the low population levels of the moth in the field. The results of this study contribute to our understanding of the life history traits of erebid moths in the subfamily Arctiinae deployed for the biological control of C. odorata.