The arthropod-specific hormone family of ecdysteroids plays an important role in regulating diverse physiological processes, such as moulting and metamorphosis, reproduction, diapause and innate immunity. Ecdysteroids mediate their response by binding to a heterodimeric complex of two nuclear receptors, the ecdysone receptor (EcR) and the retinoid-X-receptor/ultraspiracle (RXR/USP). In this study we investigated the role of EcR and RXR in metamorphosis and development of the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria. The desert locust is a voracious, phytophagous, swarming pest that can ruin crops and harvests in some of the world's poorest countries. A profound knowledge of the ecdysteroid signalling pathway can be used in the development of more target-specific insecticides to combat this harmful plague insect. Here we report an in-depth profiling study of the transcript levels of EcR and RXR, as well as its downstream response genes, in different tissues isolated throughout the last larval stage of a hemimetabolous insect, showing a clear correlation with circulating ecdysteroid titres. Using RNA interference (RNAi), the role of SgEcR/SgRXR in moulting and development was investigated. We have proven the importance of the receptor components for successful moulting of locust nymphs into the adult stage. Some SgEcR/SgRXR knockdown females were arrested in the last larval stage, and 65 % of them initiated vitellogenesis and oocyte maturation, which normally only occurs in adults. Furthermore, our results clearly indicate that at the peak of ecdysteroid synthesis, on day six of the last larval stage, knockdown of SgEcR/SgRXR is affecting the transcript levels of the Halloween genes, Spook, Shadow and Shade.