Understanding gene interaction and pleiotropy are long-standing goals of developmental and evolutionary biology. We examine the genetic control of diapause in insects and show how the failure to recognize the difference between modular and gene pleiotropy has confounded our understanding of the genetic basis of this important phenotype. This has led to complications in understanding the role of the circadian clock in the control of diapause in Drosophila and other insects. We emphasize three successive modules - each containing functionally related genes - that lead to diapause: photoperiodism, hormonal events and diapause itself. Understanding the genetic basis for environmental control of diapause has wider implications for evolutionary response to rapid climate change and for the opportunity to observe evolutionary change in contemporary time.