Trade-offs amongst life history traits is a major theme in evolutionary biology. Parasitoid wasps are important biological control agents and make excellent organisms to examine trade-offs in fitness related traits such as size, development rate and survival. Here, we examined trait-related trade-offs in 2 solitary endoparasitoids developing in different stages (or instars) of the same caterpillar host, the cabbage moth Mamestra brassicae. Microplitis mediator is a small specialist parasitoid that attacks first (L1) to third (L3) instars of M. brassicae; Meteorus pulchricornis is a larger highly generalized parasitoid that attacks L1-L4 instars of the same host species. When developing in early host instars (e.g. L1-L2), both parasitoids differently traded-off size against development time. In M. mediator, adult body mass was smaller in wasps developing in L1 than in L2 and L3 hosts, whereas development time was unaffected by instar. By contrast, adult body mass in M. pulchricornis was smaller and development time longer when developing in L1 and L2 than in L3 and L4 instars. Periodic starvation of M. brassicae caterpillars parasitized by M. pulchricornis further reduced adult mass and extended development time of wasps in L2 (but not L4) hosts. Maximum egg load in M. pulchricornis (but not M. mediator) was correlated with adult female body size. Our results imply that rapid development time is more important than body size for fitness in both species, although in M. pulchricornis both development time and adult size are traded off in determining the optimal phenotype. Developing a better understanding of association-specific patterns of development in parasitoids can assist in the optimization of mass rearing of these insects for biological control. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.