Host–parasitoid metapopulation models have typically been deterministic models formulated with population numbers as a continuous variable. Spatial heterogeneity in local population abundance is a typical (and often essential) feature of these models and means that, even when average population density is high, some patches have small population sizes. In addition, large temporal population fluctuations are characteristic of many of these models, and this also results in periodically small local population sizes. Whenever population abundances are small, demographic stochasticity can become important in several ways. To investigate this problem, we have reformulated a deterministic, host–parasitoid metapopulation as an integer–based model in which encounters between hosts and parasitoids, and the fecundity of individuals are modelled as stochastic processes. This has a number of important consequences: (1) stochastic fluctuations at small population sizes tend to be amplified by the dynamics to cause massive population variability, i.e. the demographic stochasticity has a destabilizing effect; (2) the spatial patterns of local abundance observed in the deterministic counterpart are largely maintained (although the area of ‘spatial chaos’ is extended); (3) at small population sizes, dispersal by discrete individuals leads to a smaller fraction of new patches being colonized, so that parasitoids with small dispersal rates have a greater tendency for extinction and higher dispersal rates have a larger competitive advantage; and (4) competing parasitoids that could coexist in the deterministic model due to spatial segregation cannot now coexist for any combination of parameters.