A high level of genetic variability was detected in North American fall armyworm (FA W), Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith), populations by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of genomic DNA. In nearly all cases individual larvae could be differentiated using 22 probe-enzyme combinations. Laboratory colonies formed distinct groups based on RFLP analysis. Individuals from a colony of the previously determined ‘rice strain’ formed a group showing obvious deviation in RFLP patterns from the other five populations, which included a population from a ‘com strain’ colony. The results were consistent with previous studies using allozymes which indicated that there are two genetically differentiated forms of the fall armyworm. Diagnostic markers were also found that distinguish these two groups.