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Pest species of insects are notoriously prone to escape the weapons deployed in management efforts against them. This is particularly true in herbivorous insects. When a previously successful tactic fails the insect population has apparently adapted to it and is often considered to be a new or distinct entity, and given the non-formal category ‘biotype’. The entities falling under the umbrella term ‘biotype’ are not consistent either within or between biotypes, and their underlying genetic composition and origins, while generally unknown, are likely heterogeneous within and variable between biotypes. In some cases race or species may be more appropriate referents. Some examples of applications of the concept in the context of host plant resistance are discussed. It is argued here that the term ‘biotype’ and its applications are overly simplistic, confused, have not proved useful in current pest management, and lack predictive power for future management.