The ability of adult cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner), to distinguish and respond to enantiomers of alpha-pinene was investigated with electrophysiological and behavioral methods. Electroantennogram recordings using mixtures of the enantiomers at saturating dose levels, and single unit electrophysiology, indicated that the two forms were detected by the same receptor neurons. The relative size of the electroantennogram response was higher for the (-) compared to the (+) form, indicating greater affinity for the (-) form at the level of the dendrites. Behavioral assays investigated the ability of moths to discriminate between, and respond to the (+) and (-) forms of alpha-pinene. Moths with no odor conditioning showed an innate preference for (+)-alpha-pinene. This preference displayed by naive moths was not significantly different from the preferences of moths conditioned on (+)-alpha-pinene. However, we found a significant difference in preference between moths conditioned on the (-) enantiomer compared to naive moths and moths conditioned on (+)-alpha-pinene, showing that learning plays an important role in the behavioral response. Moths are less able to distinguish between enantiomers of alpha-pinene than different odors (e.g., phenylacetaldehyde versus (-)-alpha-pinene) in learning experiments. The relevance of receptor discrimination of enantiomers and learning ability of the moths in host plant choice is discussed.