Abstract The impact of lead on food consumption, energy metabolism and the stress protein (hsp 70) level was investigated in the woodlouse Porcellio scaber (Isopoda), a common representative of the saprophagous soil macrofauna. To examine possible acclimation or tolerance to lead in woodlice from a contaminated habitat, animals of two populations, one deriving from a lead-contaminated artillery range and one from an uncontaminated control stand, were exposed to a series of lead concentrations under otherwise constant laboratory conditions for a maximum of 80 days. The applied lead concentrations (at a maximum 7945 mg/kg food dry wt) did not have any significant quantitative effect on the food consumption of the isopods, although the population pre-exposed in the artillery range showed a tendency toward a higher food uptake than the control population. After 80 days of exposure, both populations showed an equal trend toward increasing their respiration as lead concentrations, that they had been fed on, were increased. Accordingly, the glycogen content of the body, in both populations, was elevated with increasing lead concentrations in the food. This effect was more pronounced in the pre-exposed isopod population than in the one from the control stand. The non-pre-exposed isopods showed a general tendency toward a lower protein content of their bodies than the pre-exposed ones, although no effect of the lead on this parameter could be statistically proven. The ability of the artillary range isopods to synthesise stress proteins (hsp 70) in response to lead contamination decreased at much lower lead concentrations in their food than in the non-pre-exposed control population, even though the artillery range isopods seemed to be equally or even slightly better equipped with energy storage products. Even though the better nutrient status of these animals might refer to some lead tolerance of the pre-exposed population, the stress protein data suggest that a metal-resistent Porcellio population did not evolve in this lead-contaminated site.