The view of (insect) populations as assemblages of local subpopulations connected by gene flow is gaining ground. In such structured populations, local adaptation may occur. In phytophagous insects, one way in which local adaptation has been demonstrated is by performing reciprocal transplant experiments where performance of insects on native and novel host plants are compared. Trade-offs are assumed to be responsible for a negative correlation in performance on alternative host plants. Due to mixed results of these experiments, the importance of trade-offs in host plant use of phytophagous insects has been under discussion. Here we propose that another genetic mechanism, the evolution of coadapted gene complexes, might also be associated with local adaptation. In this case, however, transplant experiments might not reveal any local adaptation until hybridization takes place. We review the results we have obtained in our work on the host plant use of the flea beetle Phyllotreta nemorum L. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Alticinae), and propose a hypothesis involving coadapted genes to explain the distribution of genes that render P. nemorum resistant to defences of one of its host plants, Barbarea vulgaris R. Br. (Cruciferae).