- Insects cannot synthesize sterols de novo, but like all eukaryotes they use them as cell membrane inserts where they influence membrane fluidity and rigidity. They also use a small amount for metabolic purposes, most notably as essential precursors for steroid hormones. It has been a long-held view that most insects require a small amount of specific sterol (often cholesterol) for metabolic purposes, but for membrane purposes (where the bulk of sterols are used) specificity in sterol structure was less important. Under this model, it was assumed that insects could tolerate mixed-sterol diets as long as a small amount of cholesterol was available. In the current paper this dogma is overturned, using data from plant-feeding insects that were fed mixed-sterol diets with different amounts and ratios of dietary sterols.