Emamectin benzoate has been used to treat sea lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, infestations on farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar. Recent evidence suggests a reduction in effectiveness in some locations. A major challenge in the detection of tolerance emergence can be the typically low proportion of resistant individuals in a population during the early phases. The objectives of this study were to develop a method for determining differences in temporal development of tolerance between sea lice life stages and to explore how these differences might be used to improve the monitoring of treatment effectiveness in a clinical setting. This study examined two data sets based on records of sea lice abundance following emamectin benzoate treatments from the west coast of Scotland (2002–2006) and from New Brunswick, Canada (2004–2008). Life stages were categorized into two groups (adult females and the remaining mobile stages) to examine the trends in mean abundance and treatment effectiveness. Differences in emamectin benzoate effectiveness were found between the two groups by year and location, suggesting that an important part of monitoring drug resistance development in aquatic ectoparasites may be the need to focus on key life stages.