Despite the fact that all vertically transmitted symbionts sequester resources from their hosts and are therefore costly to maintain, there is an extraordinary diversity of them in invertebrates. Some spread through host populations by providing their hosts with fitness benefits or by manipulating host sex ratio, but some do not: their maintenance in host lineages remains an enigma. In this review, I explore the evolutionary ecology of vertically transmitted symbionts and their impact on host resistance, and provide an overview of the evidence for the three-way interactions between these symbionts, natural enemies and invertebrate hosts. A number of recent empirical and theoretical studies suggest that vertically transmitted symbionts may protect their hosts from pathogens. If this 'symbiont-mediated protection' is widespread, it is likely that vertically transmitted symbionts contribute significantly to variation in measures of invertebrate resistance to natural enemies.