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This study examines butterfly larval host plants, herbivory and related life history attributes within Nagpur City, India. The larval host plants of 120 butterfly species are identified and their host specificity, life form, biotope, abundance and perennation recorded; of the 126 larval host plants, most are trees (49), with fewer herbs (43), shrubs (22), climbers (7) and stem parasites (2). They include 89 wild, 23 cultivated, 11 wild/cultivated and 3 exotic plant species; 78 are perennials, 43 annuals and 5 biannuals. Plants belonging to Poaceae and Fabaceae are most widely used by butterfly larvae. In addition to distinctions in host plant family affiliation, a number of significant differences between butterfly families have been identified in host use patterns: for life forms, biotopes, landforms, perennation, host specificity, egg batch size and ant associations. These differences arising from the development of a butterfly resource database have important implications for conserving butterfly species within the city area. Differences in overall butterfly population sizes within the city relate mainly to the number of host plants used, but other influences, including egg batch size and host specificity are identified. Much of the variation in population size is unaccounted for and points to the need to investigate larval host plant life history and strategies as population size is not simply dependent on host plant abundance.