Across herbivorous insect clades, species richness and host-use diversity tend to positively covary. This could be because host-use divergence drives speciation, or because it raises the ecological limits on species richness. To evaluate these hypotheses, we performed phylogenetic path model analyses of the species diversity of Nearctic aphids. Here, we show that variation in the species richness of aphid clades is caused mainly by host-use divergence, whereas variation in speciation rates is caused more by divergence in non-host-related niche variables. Aphid speciation is affected by both the evolution of host and non-host-related niche components, but the former is largely caused by the latter. Thus, our analyses suggest that host-use divergence can both raise the ecological limits on species richness and drive speciation, although in the latter case, host-use divergence tends to be a step along the causal path leading from non-host-related niche evolution to speciation.