The Janzen–Connell model of tropical forest tree diversity predicts that seedlings and young trees growing close to conspecific adults should experience higher levels of damage and mortality from herbivorous insects, with the adult trees acting as either an attractant or source of the herbivores. Previous research in a seasonal forest showed that this pattern of distance-dependent herbivory occurred in the early wet season during the peak of new leaf production. I hypothesized that distance-dependent herbivory may occur at this time because the new foliage in the canopy attracts high numbers of herbivores that are limited to feeding on young leaves. As a consequence, seedlings and saplings growing close to these adults are more likely to be discovered and damaged by these herbivores. In the late wet season, when there is little leaf production in the canopy, leaf damage is spread more evenly throughout the forest and distance dependence disappears. I tested three predictions based on this hypothesis: (1) the same species of insect herbivores attack young and adult trees of a given plant species; (2) herbivore densities increase on adult trees during leaf production; and (3) herbivore densities in the understory rise during the course of the wet season. Censuses were conducted on adults and saplings of two tree species, Quararibea asterolepis and Alseis blackiana. Adults and saplings of both species had largely the same suite of chewing herbivore species. On adults of Q. asterolepis, the density of chewing herbivores increased 6–10 times during leaf production, but there was no increase in herbivore density on adults of A. blackiana. Herbivore densities increased 4.5 times on A. blackiana saplings and 8.9 times on Q. asterolepis saplings during the wet season, but there were no clear trends on the adults of either species. These results suggest that the potential of adult trees as a source of herbivores on saplings depends on the value of new leaves to a tree species' herbivores, which may differ across tree species.