1 Insects using olfactory stimuli to forage for prey/hosts are proposed to encounter a ‘reliability–detectability problem’, where the usability of a stimulus depends on its reliability as an indicator of herbivore presence and its detectability. 2 We investigated this theory using the responses of female seven-spot ladybirds Coccinella septempunctata (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) to plant headspace chemicals collected from the peach-potato aphid Myzus persicae and four commercially available Brassica cultivars; Brassica rapa L. cultivar ‘turnip purple top’, Brassica juncea L. cultivar ‘red giant mustard’, Brassica napus L. cultivar ‘Apex’, Brassica napus L. cultivar ‘Courage’ and Arabidopsis thaliana. For each cultivar/species, responses to plants that were undamaged, previously infested by M. persicae and infested with M. persicae, were investigated using dual-choice Petri dish bioassays and circular arenas. 3 There was no evidence that ladybirds responded to headspace chemicals from aphids alone. Ladybirds significantly preferred headspace chemicals from B. napus cv. Apex that were undamaged compared with those from plants infested with aphids. For the other four species/cultivars, there was a consistent trend of the predators being recorded more often in the half of the Petri dish containing plant headspace chemicals from previously damaged and infested plants compared with those from undamaged ones. Furthermore, the mean distance ladybirds walked to reach aphid-infested A. thaliana was significantly shorter than to reach undamaged plants. These results suggest that aphid-induced plant chemicals could act as an arrestment or possibly an attractant stimulus to C. septempunctata. However, it is also possible that C. septempunctata could have been responding to aphid products, such as honeydew, transferred to the previously damaged and infested plants. 4 The results provide evidence to support the ‘reliability–detectability’ theory and suggest that the effectiveness of C. septempunctata as a natural enemy of aphids may be strongly affected by which species and cultivar of Brassica are being grown.