Retinoids in the compound eyes of insects in ten orders were extracted by the oxime method and analysed by HPLC. Four geometrical isomers (13-cis, 11-cis, 9-cis and all-trans) of syn and anti retinal oximes, and syn and anti 3-hydroxyretinal oximes were separated in a single analysis by a stepwise eluent condition. The amounts of the two isomers, syn 11-cis and syn all-trans, were quantified. 11-Cis 3-hydroxyretinal was detected in six orders: Lepidoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera, Neuroptera, Hemiptera and Odonata, and retinal and 3-hydroxyretinal were found together in the compound eyes of some species of Coleoptera and Odonata. We conclude that early in their phylogeny, insects had the ability to use 3-hydroxyretinal as the chromophore of visual pigment. Peaks corresponding to syn 9-cis and 13-cis 3-hydroxyretinal oximes were observed on the chromatogram of extracts from fly heads and compound eyes of cicadas. Retinol and 3-hydroxyretinol were also analysed and quantified relative to retinal and 3-hydroxyretinal. Larger amounts of the alcohols than the aldehydes were found in the compound eyes of butterflies, hornets, cicadas and grasshoppers, which are diurnal insects. 3-Dehydroretinal has not been detected in insects.