An important question in ecology is the extent to which populations and communities are governed by general rules. Recent developments in population dynamics theory have shown that hosts' refuges from their insect parasitoids predict parasitoid community richness patterns. Here, the refuge theory is extended to biological control, in which parasitoids are imported for the control of insect pests. Theory predicts, and data confirm, that the success of biological control is inversely related to the proportion of insects protected from parasitoid attack. Refuges therefore provide a general mechanism for interpreting ecological patterns at both the community level (their species diversity) and population level (their dynamics).