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Freeze tolerance, the ability to survive internal ice formation, facilitates survival of some insects in cold habitats. Low-molecular-weight cryoprotectants such as sugars, polyols and amino acids are hypothesized to facilitate freeze tolerance, but their in vivo function is poorly understood. Here, we use a combination of metabolomics and manipulative experiments in vivo and ex vivo to examine the function of multiple cryoprotectants in the spring field cricket Gryllus veletis. Cold-acclimated G. veletis are freeze-tolerant and accumulate myo-inositol, proline and trehalose in their haemolymph and fat body. Injecting freeze-tolerant crickets with proline and trehalose increases survival of freezing to lower temperatures or for longer times. Similarly, exogenous myo-inositol and trehalose increase ex vivo freezing survival of fat body cells from freeze-tolerant crickets. No cryoprotectant (alone or in combination) is sufficient to confer freeze tolerance on non-acclimated, freeze-intolerant G. veletis. Given that each cryoprotectant differentially impacts survival in the frozen state, we conclude that small cryoprotectants are not interchangeable and likely function non-colligatively in insect freeze tolerance. Our study is the first to experimentally demonstrate the importance of non-colligative cryoprotectant function for insect freeze tolerance both in vivo and ex vivo, with implications for choosing new molecules for cryopreservation.PMID: 30890098