An ethyl acetate extract of Piper nigrum L. (Piperaceae) peppercorns was tested as a synergist for the botanical insecticide pyrethrum. A high synergist ratio of 11.6 against Drosophila melanogaster was obtained for the combination of pyrethrum supplemented with P. nigrum. The effect of this combination was investigated using cDNA microarray analysis of gene expression profiles in D. melanogaster. Treatment of D. melanogaster with pyrethrum alone resulted in a large number of differentially expressed genes, principally associated with stress responses. Seven genes were identified as being commonly expressed in D. melanogaster treated with at least two of the following treatments: P. nigrum, pyrethrum or P. nigrum plus pyrethrum. These are likely implicated in Drosophila defence responses to toxins.