Applications of entomopathogenic nematodes in the families Steinernematidae and Heterorhabditidae have traditionally been targeted against soil insects. Nonetheless, research over the last two decades highlights the potential of such agents against above-ground pests under certain circumstances. A general linear model was used to test for patterns in efficacy among 136 published trials with Steinernema carpocapsae Weiser, the most common species applied against foliar and other above-ground pests. The focus was on field and greenhouse assessments, rather than laboratory assays where relevant ecological barriers to infection are typically removed. The model showed differences in nematode treatment efficacy depending on the pests’ target habitat (bore holes > cryptic foliage > exposed foliage) and trial location (greenhouse > field studies). Relative humidity and temperature during and up to 8 h post-application were also predicted to influence rates of nematode infection obtained. Conversely, spray adjuvants (both wetting agents and anti-desiccants) and nematode dosage applied (both concentration and use of consecutive applications 3–4 days apart) did not explain a significant amount of variance in nematode performance. With reference to case studies the model is used to discuss the relative importance of different factors on nematode efficacy and highlight priorities for workers considering using entomopathogenic nematodes to target pests in novel environments.