BACKGROUND To check for correlation between the insecticidal properties and the specificity of lectins, a comparative study was made of the insecticidal activities of two garlic lectins with different biological activities. RESULTS The insecticidal activity of the garlic (Allium sativum L.) leaf lectin ASAL and bulb lectin ASAII towards the tobacco aphid Myzus nicotianae Blackman was studied using bioassays with transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L. cv. Wisconsin 38). Bioassays were started with newborn nymphs of the tobacco aphid. Although during the first 7-8 days when nymphs developed to adults there were no apparent effects, part of the nymphal population was found to develop into winged (alate) forms. Later it became clear that transgenic plants expressing ASAL and ASAII had a significant effect on the reproduction capacity of the resulting adults, with a reduction of up to 40%. Different life table parameters such as prereproductive time, intrinsic rate of natural increase, generation time and doubling time were significantly affected (P < 0.05) in aphids grown on transgenic plant material expressing ASAL and ASAII. CONCLUSION Bioassays with tobacco plants expressing ASAL and ASAII demonstrated a significant impact on the population growth of M. nicotianae. Therefore, both lectins can be considered as valuable candidate aphid control agents.