In addition to controlling pest organisms, the systemic neurotoxic pesticide fipronil can also have adverse effects on beneficial insects and other non-target organisms. Here, we report on the sublethal effects of fipronil on the farmland butterfly Pieris brassicae . Caterpillars were reared on plants that had been grown from seeds coated with fipronil or on leaf discs topically treated with a range of fipronil dosages (1–32 µg kg −1 on dry mass basis). Females that had developed on fipronil plants laid ca half the number of eggs than females that had developed on control plants. In the bioassay with leaf discs, longevity and lifetime egg production declined with increasing fipronil dosage. Remarkably, exposure to fipronil during larval development primarily affected the adult stage. Chemical analyses of leaf tissues collected from seed-treated plants revealed concentrations of fipronil and its degradation products close to the analytical limit of detection (less than or equal to 1 µg kg −1 ). The effective dosage was fivefold higher in the leaf-disc than in the whole-plant experiment. In the whole plant, degradation of fipronil to products that are more toxic than fipronil may explain this discrepancy. Neurotoxicity of insecticides at the level of detection decreases the probability of pinpointing insecticides as the causal agent of harmful effects on non-target organisms.