Spatial and temporal variability are essential considerations in the study of aquatic insects. Traditionally, these two sources of variability are treated separately; however, they should be considered together because they occur concurrently in natural systems. To illustrate this interaction, we constructed two-way variability tables in which spatial (habitat, reach or zone, system, intersystem) and temporal (within a day, within a season, within a year, year to year) scales were ordered on separate axes, and examples of concurrent spatial and temporal variability were entered at the intersects of the scales. We examined three aspects of aquatic insect life histories in lotic and lentic waters using such tables: emergence, feeding and growth, and movements and migrations. It proved easier to find examples for the stream tables than for the lake tables, perhaps because of greater spatial and temporal variability in lotic than lentic waters. Also, more papers have been published on stream than on lake insects over the last decade or so. Spatial and temporal scales at which lotic and lentic research is done were determined by examining the recent contents of five key aquatic journals (≈ 500 articles). Research on aquatic insects appears generally to be done at relatively long temporal scales, but at smaller spatial and shorter temporal scales in lotic than lentic systems. Perusal of the literature to find examples of concurrent spatial and temporal variability revealed the prevalence of a “mean-values” appproach to data analysis, in which investigators “homogenize” data to reduce spatial and temporal variability. However, it is this spatial and temporal variability that often provides an explanation of factors causing the patterns observed. A “variance” approach, in which data are disaggregated and fluctuations or extremes are considered, may be far more informative and may elucidate underlying mechanisms.