The failure of a nutritionally balanced diet to ameliorate the impact of symbiont disruption in the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris) was investigated using two approaches. The assimilation of dietary nutrients by aphids was investigated using chemically-defined diets containing 3H-labelled inulin and 14C-labelled sucrose or amino acids. Symbiotic aphids (i.e., aphids containing their bacteria) had a high sucrose demand and assimilated 72% of sucrose ingested in the diet, whereas the assimilation of sucrose by aposymbiotic aphids (in which the bacteria had been disrupted), was significantly reduced to 47%. The assimilation of individual dietary amino acids by symbiotic aphids varied between 61 and 92%, and there was no impact on the feeding or assimilation rate when the aphids were fed a ‘phloem sap-like’ diet containing a reduced amount of essential amino acids. Consequently, the absolute amount of each essential amino acid assimilated by symbiotic aphids feeding on a ‘phloem sap-like’ diet was reduced by 36–59%. Aposymbiotic aphids consistently assimilated a lower proportion of ingested amino acids, and lysine in particular was poorly assimilated from the diet. In a second experiment, the allocation of free amino acids in the haemocoel to aphid embryos was investigated following microinjection of 14C-labelled amino acids. After 2 h, radiolabel could be detected at varying levels from the embryo complement of both symbiotic and aposymbiotic aphids, indicating rapid but selective uptake by the embryos. The essential amino acids phenylalanine and lysine were incorporated into the protein fraction of embryo tissues, but the rate of incorporation per unit biomass was approximately 4-fold higher in the embryos of aposymbiotic aphids, possibly reflecting increased demand due to the lack of amino acid provisioning from the symbiotic bacteria.