The effects of pesticides on honeybee larvae are less understood than for adult bees, even though larvae are chronically exposed to pesticide residues that accumulate in comb and food stores in the hive. We investigated how exposure to a plant alkaloid, nicotine, affects survival, growth and body composition of honeybee larvae. Larvae of Apis mellifera scutellata were reared in vitro and fed throughout development on standard diets with nicotine included at concentrations from 0 to 1000 lg/100 g diet. Overall mortality across all nicotine treatments was low, averaging 9.8% at the prepupal stage and 18.1% at the white-eyed pupal stage, but survival was significantly reduced by nicotine. The mass of prepupae and white-eyed pupae was not affected by nicotine. In terms of body composition, nicotine affected water content but did not influence either protein or lipid stores of white-eyed pupae. We attribute the absence of consistent negative effects of dietary nicotine to detoxification mechanisms in developing honeybees, which enable them to resist both natural and synthetic xenobiotics.