Life table studies of Mussidia nigrivenella Ragonot, a pest of maize in Benin, showed that host plant species had a significant effect on larval survival and developmental time. The maximum percentage of larvae surviving was recorded on jackbean, Canavalia ensiformis (36%) and lowest on maize (18%). Mean developmental time for larvae was longest on maize (19.8 days) and shortest on jackbean (17.2 days). The number of eggs laid was highest for females from larvae fed on jackbean (x– = 176), followed by velvetbean, Mucuna pruriens(x– = 143), and lowest for females where larvae had fed on maize (x–= 127). Longevity of ovipositing females was higher on jackbean (5.4 days) than of those from any other host plants. According to the growth index and life table statistics, jackbean was the most suitable host plant, followed by velvetbean, and maize, the least suitable. Thus, jackbeans should be recommended for use in mass rearing programmes of M.nigrivenella, e.g. as a host for parasitoids in future biological control programmes. Because of the high suitability of jack- and velvetbeans for M.nigrivenella, planting of these increasingly important cover crops should be timed in such a manner that the emergence of female moths from mature pods does not coincide with maize plants in a suitable developmental stage for oviposition and development of young M. nigrivenella larvae.