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Effects of four host plants, tobacco, Chinese cabbage, cowpea and sweet potato, on larval and pupal development and survival, and longevity and fecundity of adults of Spodoptera litura (F) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), were studied under laboratory conditions (26° C, 60–80% RH), as was the utilization of the four host plants and adaptation on tobacco. All of the biological parameters included in the study were affected by the host plants. In a choice test, S. litura females oviposited most on Chinese cabbage, least on tobacco, and intermediate on cowpea and sweet potato. S. litura larvae developed differently on the four host plants, from shortest to longest in the following order: Chinese cabbage, cowpea, sweet potato, and tobacco. Pupal development was shorter on cowpea than on the other three host plants, and males generally developed longer than females. More females than males were found among emerged adults, and male adults lived 1–2 d longer than females. Larvae survived best on cowpea (81.6%), followed by Chinese cabbage (75.5%), then sweet potato (66.1%), and worst on tobacco (49.2%). Pupal survival rates were relatively high (91.4 – 95.9%) in all four host plant treatments, although that on sweet potato was lower than those on the other three host plants. Pupal weights on tobacco and sweet potato were similar, but both were lower than those on Chinese cabbage and cowpea. Generally, male pupae weighed less than female pupae. Numbers of eggs oviposited by female S. litura were highest on sweet potato, followed by those on cowpea, Chinese cabbage, and lowest on tobacco. Relative food consumption rate was highest on sweet potato, followed by that on cowpea, Chinese cabbage, and lowest on tobacco. In contrast, S. litura larvae that fed on tobacco had higher efficiency of conversion of digested food, highest efficiency of conversion of ingested food, and lowest approximate digestibility as compared with larvae that fed on other host plants. The potential causes for S. litura outbreaks on tobacco are discussed.