All insects are colonized by microorganisms on the insect exoskeleton, in the gut and hemocoel, and within insect cells. The insect microbiota is generally different from microorganisms in the external environment, including ingested food. Specifically, certain microbial taxa are favored by the conditions and resources in the insect habitat, by their tolerance of insect immunity, and by specific mechanisms for their transmission. The resident microorganisms can promote insect fitness by contributing to nutrition, especially by providing essential amino acids, B vitamins, and, for fungal partners, sterols. Some microorganisms protect their insect hosts against pathogens, parasitoids, and other parasites by synthesizing specific toxins or modifying the insect immune system. Priorities for future research include elucidation of microbial contributions to detoxification, especially of plant allelochemicals in phytophagous insects, and resistance to pathogens; as well as their role in among-insect communication; and the potential value of manipulation of the microbiota to control insect pests.