Although endoparasitoids are widely used for biological control of Plutella xylostella (Linnaeus) (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) throughout the world, current methods do not allow for easy estimation of parasitism levels. I investigated the potential of using ratios of parasitoid cocoons to infestations to develop a simple and practical method of estimating parasitism levels in the field. Crop infestations by the pest and densities of its endoparasitoids' cocoons were recorded at weekly intervals over six consecutive years on unsprayed cabbage. In order to establish if there was a relationship between parasitism levels and ratios of parasitoid cocoons to infestations, samples of host larvae and pupae were collected every week during scouting for rearing in the laboratory. The majority of parasitoid cocoons belonged to the larval endoparasitoid Cotesia vestalis (Haliday) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), which was the major mortality factor of P. xylostella. Total parasitism levels were positively related to ratios of parasitoid cocoons to infestations. Crop infestation by P. xylostella was low during periods of high parasitism (≥50 %) than during low parasitism (<50 %), and 50% parasitism corresponded with 20% ratio of parasitoid cocoons to infestations. This study shows that ratios of parasitoid cocoons to infestations can be used to estimate background parasitism levels.