This review covers the synthesis and the metabolism of vertebrate-type steroids (progesterone, testosterone, estradiol, corticosteroids) by insect tissues and discusses the significance of the reactions for insect physiology. Biosynthesis of vertebrate-type steroids from cholesterol hitherto has been demonstrated in only two insect species, i.e. the water beetle Acilius sulcatus (Coleoptera) and the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera). In Acilius, steroid synthesis is associated with exosecretion (chemical defense). Nothing, however, is known about a physiological role of the C21 steroid conjugate present in ovaries and eggs of Manduca.