Animals use their chemosensory systems to detect and discriminate among chemical cues in the environment. Remarkable progress has recently been made in our knowledge of the molecular and cellular basis of chemosensory perception in insects, based largely on studies in Drosophila. This progress has been possible due to the identification of gene families for olfactory and gustatory receptors, the use of electro-physiological recording techniques on sensory neurons, the multitude of genetic manipulations that are available in this species, and insights from several insect model systems. Recent studies show that the superfamily of chemoreceptor proteins represent the essential elements in chemosensory coding, endowing chemosensory neurons with their abilities to respond to specific sets of odorants, tastants or pheromones. Investigating how insects detect chemicals in their environment can show us how receptor protein structures relate to ligand binding, how nervous systems process complex information, and how chemosensory systems and genes evolve.