Helicoverpa and Heliothis species include some of the world's most significant crop pests, causing billions of dollars of losses globally. As such, a number are regulated quarantine species. For quarantine agencies, the most crucial issue is distinguishing native species from exotics, yet even this task is often not feasible because of poorly known local faunas and the difficulties of identifying closely related species, especially the immature stages. DNA barcoding is a scalable molecular diagnostic method that could provide the solution to this problem, however there has been no large-scale test of the efficacy of DNA barcodes for identifying the Heliothinae of any region of the world to date. This study fills that gap by DNA barcoding the entire heliothine moth fauna of Australia, bar one rare species, and comparing results with existing public domain resources. We find that DNA barcodes provide robust discrimination of all of the major pest species sampled, but poor discrimination of Australian Heliocheilus species, and we discuss ways to improve the use of DNA barcodes for identification of pests.