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The effects of extracts of sesame, Sesamum indicum L. (Liamiales: Pedaliaceae), and whole leaves of some selected cultivars of sesame were tested using a natural host Spodoptera litura (F.) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Indices taken using the immature stages include; diet utilization, growth and development and induction of detoxification enzymes. The results indicate that S. litura generally selects its food amongst cultivars within 6 hours after food presentation. Growth and development of the insect is controlled also by plant acceptability and quality. Although all the cultivars tested significantly limit insect growth and development the variety 56S-radiatum did not allow a complete life cycle as pupation from first instar stage was 0%. Generally the crucial period for immature S. litura was the larval period, especially the first two instars where the weight of an insect fed on an experimental diet was three times lower than that of a control diet. The larval developmental period was greater than 40 days as compared to 17 days for insects fed a control diet. S. litura also had lowered efficiency in utilizing ingested food, from a low of 13% in a sesame cultivar to 45% in the control diet. The key detoxification enzyme was a glutathione s-transferase that was confirmed by a 6-fold increase between S. litura fed a plant cultivar vs. a control diet towards the substrate 1,2-dichloro-4-nitrobenzene. First and second instars of S. litura have a relatively reduced detoxification of enzymes in response to plant cultivar diets leading to low survival. A 3% v/w crude extract of the cultivars increased enzyme induction towards all the tested substrates.