A reduction in dietary calories has been shown to prolong life span in a wide variety of taxa, but there has been much debate about confounding factors such as nutritional composition of the diet, or reallocation of nutrients from reduced reproduction. To disentangle the contribution of these different mechanisms to extension of life span, we study the effect of caloric restriction on longevity and fecundity in two species of sugar-feeding parasitoid wasps. They have a simple diet that consists of carbohydrates only, and they do not resorb eggs, which rules out the proposed alternative explanations for beneficial effects of caloric restriction. Two caloric restriction treatments were applied: first, dietary dilution to investigate the effect of carbohydrate concentration in the diet; and second, intermittent feeding to examine the effect of feeding frequency on longevity and fecundity. Only the dietary dilution treatment showed an effect of caloric restriction with the highest longevity recorded at 80% sucrose (w/v). No effect of dietary regime was found on fecundity. We also measured the weight increase of the parasitoids after feeding to obtain an estimate of consumption. A constant quantity of the sugar solution was consumed in all dietary dilution treatments, hence caloric intake was proportional to sucrose concentrations. Although the present study does not disqualify the relevance of nutrient composition in other species, our data unequivocally demonstrate that caloric restriction alone is sufficient to extend life span and invalidate alternative explanations. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.