Ion channels remain the primary target of most of the small molecule insecticides. This review examines how the subunit composition of heterologously expressed receptors determines their insecticide-specific pharmacology and how the pharmacology of expressed receptors differs from those found in the insect nervous system. We find that the insecticide-specific pharmacology of some receptors, like that containing subunits of the Rdl encoded GABA receptor, can be reconstituted with very few of the naturally occurring subunits expressed. In contrast, workers have struggled even to express functional insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), and work has therefore often relied upon the expression of vertebrate receptor subunits in their place. We also examine the extent to which insecticide-resistance-associated mutations, such as those in the para encoded voltage-gated sodium channel, can reveal details of insecticide-binding sites and mode of action. In particular, we examine whether mutations are present in the insecticide-binding site and/or at sites that allosterically affect the drug preferred conformation of the receptor. We also discuss the ryanodine receptor as a target for the recently developed diamides. Finally, we examine the lethality of the genes encoding these receptor subunits and discuss how this might determine the degree of conservation of the resistance-associated mutations found.