Stem borers are the most important maize pests in the humid forest zone of Cameroon. Field trials were conducted in the long and short rainy seasons of 2002 and 2003 to assess the level of damage and yield reductions caused by stem borers in monocropped maize and in maize intercropped with non-host plants such as cassava, cowpea and soybean. The intercrops were planted in two spatial arrangements, i.e. alternating hills or alternating rows. All intercrops and the maize monocrop were grown with and without insecticide treatment for assessment of maize yield loss due to borer attacks. The land-use efficiency of each mixed cropping system was evaluated by comparing it with the monocrop. The temporal fluctuation of larval infestations followed the same pattern in all cropping systems, but at the early stage of plant growth, larval densities were 21.3–48.1% higher in the monocrops than in intercrops, and they tended to be higher in alternating rows than alternating hills arrangements. At harvest, however, pest densities did not significantly vary between treatments. Maize monocrops had 3.0–8.8 times more stems tunnelled and 1.3–3.1 times more cob damage than intercrops. Each percentage increase in stem tunnelling lowered maize grain yield by 1.10 and 1.84 g per plant, respectively, during the long and short rainy season in 2002, and by 5.39 and 1.41 g per plant, respectively, in 2003. Maize yield losses due to stem borer were 1.8–3.0 times higher in monocrops than in intercrops. Intercrops had generally a higher land-use efficiency than monocrops, as indicated by land-equivalent-ratios and area-time-equivalent-ratios of >1.0. Land-use efficiency was similar in both spatial arrangements. At current price levels, the net production of mixed cropping systems was economically superior to controlling stem borers with insecticide in monocropped maize. The maize–cassava intercrop yielded the highest land equivalent ratios and the highest replacement value of the intercrop. At medium intensity cropping this system is thus recommended for land-constrained poor farmers who do not use external inputs such as fertilizer and insecticides.