Insect vectors are essential for the transmission of important human diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis, Chagas and sleeping sickness. Insects are also responsible for the transmission of agricultural diseases that affect livestock and crops. Traditionally, control of the vector populations has been an effective disease management strategy. Recently, vector control strategies have been fortified by research in insect biology and in insect–pathogen interactions as well as by the development of transgenic technologies. In addition to insect population reduction methods, disease control via selective elimination of pathogens in insects can now be explored. Here we explore the tsetse vectors of African trypanosomes and describe the application of recent knowledge gained in their symbiotic, reproductive and vectorial biology to develop novel disease control strategies.