To better understand the effects of transient thermal stress in an aquatic insect, we first identified static temperatures associated with fitness deficits, and then reared larvae from egg hatch to adulthood under diurnally variable regimens including daily forays into deleterious temperatures. We sampled mature larvae at the coolest and warmest portions of their respective regimens for RNA-seq analysis. Few transcripts (28) were differentially expressed when larvae oscillated between favorable temperatures, while 614 transcripts were differentially expressed when experiencing daily transient thermal stress. Transcripts associated with N-glycan processing were downregulated while those associated with lipid catabolism and chitin turnover were significantly upregulated in heat stressed larvae. An across-regimen comparison of differentially expressed transcripts among organisms sampled at comparable temperatures demonstrated that the effects of daily thermal stress persisted even when larvae were sampled at a more optimal temperature (806 differentially expressed transcripts). The chronically stressed population had reduced expression of transcripts related to ATP synthesis, mitochondrial electron chain functions, gluconeogenesis and glycolytic processes while transcripts associated with cell adhesion, synaptic vesicle transport, regulation of membrane potential and lipid biosynthesis increased. Comparisons of constant vs. variable temperatures revealed that the negative consequences of time spent at stressful temperatures were not offset by more time spent at optimal temperatures.