Dicistroviruses comprise a newly characterized and rapidly expanding family of small RNA viruses of invertebrates. Several features of this virus group have attracted considerable research interest in recent years. In this review I provide an overview of the Dicistroviridae and describe progress made toward the understanding and practical application of dicistroviruses, including (i) construction of the first infectious clone of a dicistrovirus, (ii) use of the baculovirus expression system for production of an infectious dicistrovirus, (iii) the use of Drosophila C virus for analysis of host response to virus infection, and (iv) correlation of the presence of Israeli acute paralysis virus with honey bee colony collapse disorder. The potential use of dicistroviruses for insect pest management is also discussed. The structure, mechanism and practical use of the internal ribosome entry site (IRES) elements has recently been reviewed elsewhere.