The ability of Caenorhabditis elegans to recover from exposure to high doses of aldicarb and fenamiphos was examined at the organismal and biochemical levels by determination of movement and acetylcholinesterase activity. Nematodes recovered rapidly from a 24-hour exposure to both compounds at concentrations that caused complete paralysis. Acetylcholinesterase regained nearly full activity after a 24-hour exposure to aldicarb but only 10% activity after exposure to fenamiphos. The nematodes were able to move normally, however, on the limited activity that was regained after fenamiphos treatment. Mutant C. elegans strains deficient in various molecular forms of acetylcholinesterase were utilized to demonstrate that the mechanism of recovery did not involve new synthesis of enzyme. This result was confirmed by experiments on acetylcholinesterase reactivation from live versus dead nematodes.