BACKGROUND: The antifeedant activity of 18 sesquiterpenoids of the drimane family (polygodial, drimenol and derivatives) was investigated. RESULTS: Polygodial, drimanic and nordrimanic derivatives were found to exert antifeedant effects against two insect species, Spodoptera frugiperda and Epilachna paenulata, which are pests of agronomic interest, indicating that they have potential as biopesticide agents. Among the 18 compounds tested, the epoxynordrimane compound (11) and isonordrimenone (4) showed the highest activity [50% effective concentration (EC50) = 23.28 and 25.63 nmol cm− 2, respectively, against S. frugiperda, and 50.50 and 59.00 nmol/cm2, respectively, against E. paenulata]. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that drimanic compounds have potential as new agents against S. frugiperda and E. paenulata. A quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) analysis of the whole series, supported by electronic studies, suggested that drimanic compounds have structural features necessary for increasing antifeedant activity, namely a C-9 carbonyl group and an epoxide at C-8 and C-9.