Abstract Diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella, larvae were infected with a primary pathogen, Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk) in single strain and mixed infections. Mixed infections comprised Btk and a non-pathogenic isolate, either Bacillus thuringiensis tenebrionis (Btt) or Bacillus cereus (Bc). All strains reproduced in larval cadavers, but there was evidence of competition between different isolates within hosts. Non-pathogenic isolates (Btt, Bc) had growth rates that were faster than Btk in vivo, whereas Btk outcompeted Btt in vitro. Passage through insects increased the in vitro competitive ability of Btk against Btt.