we sampled lepidopteran caterpillars on three byrsonima species (malpighiaceae) in central brazil: byrsonima crassa , byrsonima verbascifolia and byrsonima coccolobifolia between may 1993 and july 1994. fifteen individuals of each plant species were censused weekly. our main goal was to estimate the abundance and richness of lepidopteran larvae within each plant species. only 13% of the 1 621 sampled plants had caterpillars on their leaves. this percentage was similar within each plant species. we found a pattern of low abundance and high richness of lepidopteran species associated with byrsonima. there were 48 morphospecies and 46% of them occurred just once. there was a higher similarity between the fauna of b. crassa and b. verbascifolia than between these and b. coccolobifolia. once it is known that hairy leaves can affect herbivore colonization and foraging strategy, we suggest that differences in the lepidopteran community associated with byrsonima spp. are linked with different levels of pubescence on the leaf surface of each plant species. this tendency in byrsonima is supported by the small number of caterpillars found on young leaves of b. crassa and b. verbascifolia, which are quite hairy.