Insecticidal pathogens such as baculoviruses are currently under intensive development as biorational agents for the control of lepidopteran pests. However, because the efficacy of these orally infective viruses is influenced by host diet, our ability to use baculoviruses effectively in an integrated pest management program requires understanding the influence of dietary components on the disease process. Nutritional stress caused by differences in the quality (casein or soy) or quantity (0-8%) of dietary protein altered the postinfectional course of disease caused by Autogropha californica M nucelopolyhedrovirus in 2 species of noctuids, Heliothis virescens (F.) and Tnchoplusia ni (Hubner). Lethal times of larvae infected with either the wild-type virus or a recombinant expressing a scorpion toxin (AaIT) derived from this parent virus were similarly affected by dietary protein. In general, the higher the level of dietary protein the shorter the lethal times. However, the influence of protein quality on lethal times depended on the insect species tested. The effect of chlorogenic acid on disease depended on dietary protein levels. At high protein concentrations, chlorogenic acid decreased speed of kill; whereas, at low protein levels, the phenolic had the opposite effect. The common factor among all treatments was that the faster larvae grew, the faster they died from viral infection. We suggest that insects that grow faster may support faster rates of viral replication in infected hosts. From an ecological perspective, it is possible that plants of higher protein content may increase the potential for the development of baculoviral epizootics in insect populations.