Abstract The biological parameters of Macrolophus pygmaeus Rambur after prolonged rearing in the absence of plant materials were compared with those of conventionally plant-reared predators. When eggs of Ephestia kuehniella Zeller were provided as food, developmental and reproductive fitness of M. pygmaeus reared for over 30 consecutive generations using artificial living and oviposition substrates was similar to that of predators kept on tobacco leaves. Plantless-reared fifth instars of the predator also had similar predation rates on second instars of the tobacco aphid, Myzus persicae nicotianae Blackman, as their peers maintained on plant materials. In a further experiment, predation on aphid prey by fifth instar M. pygmaeus fed one of two egg yolk-based artificial diets was compared with that of nymphs fed E. kuehniella eggs. Despite their lower body weights, predators produced on either artificial diet killed similar numbers of prey as their counterparts reared on lepidopteran eggs. Our study indicates that artificial rearing systems may be useful to further rationalize the production of this economically important biological control agent.