The link between individual habitat selection decisions (i.e., mechanism) and the resulting population distributions of dispersing organisms (i.e., outcome) has been little-studied in behavioural ecology. Here we consider density-dependent habitat (i.e., host) selection for an energy- and time-limited forager: the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins). We present a dynamic state variable model of individual beetle host selection behaviour, based on an individual’s energy state. Field data are incorporated into model parameterization which allows us to determine the effects of host availability (with respect to host size, quality, and vigour) on individuals' decisions. Beetles choose larger trees with thicker phloem across a larger proportion of the state-space than smaller trees with thinner phloem, but accept lower quality trees more readily at low energy- and time-states. In addition, beetles make habitat selection decisions based on host availability, conspecific attack densities, and beetle distributions within a forest stand. This model provides a framework for the development of a spatial game model to examine the implications of these results for attack dynamics of beetle populations.