The peritrophic matrix (PM) is a chitin and glycoprotein layer that lines the invertebrate midgut. Although structurally different, it is functionally similar to the mucous secretions of the vertebrate digestive tract. The PM is a physical barrier, protecting the midgut epithelium from abrasive food particles, digestive enzymes, and pathogens infectious per os. It is also a biochemical barrier, sequestering and, in some cases, inactivating ingested toxins. Finally, the PM compartmentalizes digestive processes, allowing for efficient nutrient acquisition and reuse of hydrolytic enzymes. The PM consists of an organized lattice of chitin fibrils held together by chitin binding proteins. Glycans fill the interstitial spaces, creating a molecular sieve, the properties of which are dependent on the immediate ion content and pH. In this review, we have integrated recent structural and functional information to create a holistic model for the PM. We also show how this information may generate novel technologies for use in insect pest management.