The effect of transient nutritional stress (sucrose culture medium) on female mate preference was investigated in the stalk–eyed fly Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni. Two experimental treatments were run in parallel. In the first, female preference was initially tested on corn (standard medium) and subsequently on sucrose (novel medium). In the second, female preference was tested in the reverse order: sucrose then corn. Females fed on corn had stronger preferences for large–eyespan males than females fed on sucrose. Female age, experience or the order of exposure to culture media had no effects on the strength of preference. An additional experiment demonstrated that the sucrose diet reduced the number of developing and mature eggs. We discuss the adaptive significance of changes in female preference due to transient nutritional stress, and the effect of changes in female preference on the strength of sexual selection.