To evaluate densovirus potential against lepidopteran pests and their capacity to invade new hosts, we have characterised in vivo the infection and pathogenesis of the Junonia coenia densovirus (JcDNV) in the noctuid pest Spodoptera frugiperda. Here we show that infection starts with the ingestion of viral particles that cross the midgut epithelium without replicating. By quantitative PCR we established the kinetic and the route of infection, from virus ingestion to replication in visceral tracheae and hemocytes. JcDNV has a high particle-to-infection ratio mostly due to the barrier function of the midgut. Pathology and cytopathology suggested that infection of tracheal cells impairs oxygen delivery to demanding tissues leading to cytopathic effects in all the tissues. Finally, larval death results from several physiological shocks, including molting arrest and anoxia.