Small chemosensory proteins (CSPs) belong to a conserved, but poorly understood protein family that has been implicated in transporting chemical stimuli within insect sensilla. However, their expression patterns suggest that these molecules are also critical for other functions including early development. Here we used both bioinformatics and experimental approaches to characterize the CSP gene family in a social insect, the Western honey bee Apis mellifera, and then compared its members to CSPs in other arthropods. The number of CSPs in the honey bee genome (six) is similar to that found in the sequenced dipteran species (four-seven), but is much lower than the number of CSPs in the moth or in the beetle (around 20 each). These differences seem to be the result of lineage specific expansions. Our analysis of CSPs in a number of arthropods reveals a conserved gene family found in both Mandibulates and Chelicerates. Expressional profiling in diverse tissues and throughout development reveals broader than expected patterns of expression with none of the CSPs restricted to the antennae and one found only in the queen ovaries and in embryos. We conclude that CSPs are multifunctional context-dependent proteins involved in diverse cellular processes ranging from embryonic development to chemosensory signal transduction. Some CSPs may function in cuticle synthesis, consistent with their evolutionary origins in the arthropods.