Recent experimental evidence has shown that learning occurs in the host selection behaviour of Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner), one of the world‘s most important agricultural pests. This paper discusses how the occurrence of learning changes our understanding of the host selection behaviour of this polyphagous moth. Host preferences determined from previous laboratory studies may be vastly different from preferences exhibited by moths in the field, where the abundance of particular hosts may be more likely to determine host preference. In support of this prediction, a number of field studies have shown that the ‘attractiveness’ of different hosts for H. armigera oviposition may depend on the relative abundance of these host species. Insect learning may play a fundamental role in the design and application of present and future integrated pest management strategies such as the use of host volatiles, trap crops and resistant crop varieties for monitoring and controlling this important pest species.