Efficient water balance is key to insect success. However, the hygric environment is changing with climate change; although there are compelling models of thermal vulnerability, water balance is often neglected in predictions. Insects survive desiccating conditions by reducing water loss, increasing their total amount of water (and replenishing it) and increasing their tolerance of dehydration. The physiology underlying these traits is reasonably well understood, as are the sources of variation and phenotypic plasticity. However, water balance and thermal tolerance intersect at high temperatures, such that mortality is sometimes determined by dehydration, rather than heat (especially during long exposures in dry conditions). Furthermore, water balance and thermal tolerance sometimes interact to determine survival. In this Commentary, we propose identifying a threshold where the cause of mortality shifts between dehydration and temperature, and that it should be possible to predict this threshold from trait measurements (and perhaps eventually a priori from physiological or -omic markers).

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