Plants employ a large variety of defense strategies to resist herbivores, which require transcriptional reprogramming of cells and profound changes in plant metabolism. Due to the large number of genes involved in defense processes, rapid screening strategies are essential for elucidating the contributions of individual genes in the responses of plants to herbivory. However, databases and seed banks of mutant plants which allow rapid retrieval of mutant genotypes are limited to a few model plant species, namely, Arabidopsis thaliana and Oryza sativa (rice). In other plants, virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) offers an efficient alternative for screening the functions of individual genes in order to prioritize the allocations of the large time investments required to establish stably transformed RNAi-silenced lines. With VIGS, it is usually possible to achieve strong, specific silencing of target genes in the ecological models Nicotiana attenuata and Solanum nigrum , allowing the rapid assessment of gene silencing effects on phytohormone accumulation, signal transduction and accumulation of defense metabolites. VIGS plants are also useful in bioassays with specialist and generalist herbivores, allowing direct verification of gene function in plant resistance to herbivores.