Abstract Effects of gamma irradiation on fourth-instar Plodia interpunctella (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) larvae in infested dates (Boufeggous variety) were assessed. Larvae were exposed to different gamma irradiation doses ranging from 300 to 900 Gy. Feeding, pupation, adult emergence and survival were very sensitive to ionizing irradiation. When irradiated at a dose of 300 Gy and higher, food consumption and weight gain were significantly affected, in a dose-dependent manner. Twenty days after irradiation, the weight loss at doses of 300, 450 and 600 Gy was 42%, 47% and 49%, respectively. At doses of 750 and 900 Gy, the weight of larvae diminished by 51% and 54%, respectively. In contrast, the controls gained 20% in weight. Development of larvae to the pupal stage was not prevented completely but none of the pupae emerged as adults. At 300 Gy, 21% of larvae survived 44 d after irradiation and successfully pupated. An absorbed dose of 450, 600, 750 or 900 Gy applied to larvae caused 100% mortality by 44, 38, 38 and 22 d post-treatment, respectively. The minimum dose required to prevent damage from feeding and adult emergence was 300 Gy while doses required to cause death were ⩾450 Gy.