Abstract Numerous studies indicate that target gene silencing by RNA interference (RNAi) could lead to insect death. This phenomenon has been considered as a potential strategy for insect pest control, and it is termed RNAi-mediated crop protection. However, there are many limitations using RNAi-based technology for pest control, with the effectiveness target gene selection and reliable double-strand RNA (dsRNA) delivery being two of the major challenges. With respect to target gene selection, at present, the use of homologous genes and genome-scale high-throughput screening are the main strategies adopted by researchers. Once the target gene is identified, dsRNA can be delivered by micro-injection or by feeding as a dietary component. However, micro-injection, which is the most common method, can only be used in laboratory experiments. Expression of dsRNAs directed against insect genes in transgenic plants and spraying dsRNA reagents have been shown to induce RNAi effects on target insects. Hence, RNAi-mediated crop protection has been considered as a potential new-generation technology for pest control, or as a complementary method of existing pest control strategies; however, further development to improve the efficacy of protection and range of species affected is necessary. In this review, we have summarized current research on RNAi-based technology for pest insect management. Current progress has proven that RNAi technology has the potential to be a tool for designing a new generation of insect control measures. To accelerate its practical application in crop protection, further study on dsRNA uptake mechanisms based on the knowledge of insect physiology and biochemistry is needed.