In order to reveal aspects of olfactory coding, the effects of sensory adaptation on the olfactory responses of first-instar Drosophila melanogaster larvae were tested. Larvae were pre-stimulated with a homologous series of acetic esters (C3-C9), and their responses to each of these odours were then measured. The overall patterns suggested that methyl acetate has no specific pathway but was detected by all the sensory pathways studied here, that butyl and pentyl acetate tended to have similar effects to each other and that hexyl acetate was processed separately from the other odours. In a number of cases, cross-adaptation transformed a control attractive response into a repulsive response; in no case was an increase in attractiveness observed. This was investigated by studying changes in dose-response curves following pre-stimulation. These findings are discussed in light of the possible intra- and intercellular mechanisms of adaptation and the advantage of altered sensitivity for the larva.