Insects are integral to most freshwater and terrestrial food webs, but due to their accumulation of environmental pollutants they are also contaminant vectors that threaten reproduction, development, and survival of consumers. Metamorphosis from larvae to adult can cause large chemical changes in insects, altering contaminant concentrations and fractionation of chemical tracers used to establish contaminant biomagnification in food webs, but no framework exists for predicting and managing these effects. We analyzed data from 39 studies of 68 analytes (stable isotopes and contaminants), and found that metamorphosis effects varied greatly. δ15N, widely used to estimate relative trophic position in biomagnification studies, was enriched by 1‰ during metamorphosis, while δ13C used to estimate diet, was similar in larvae and adults. Metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were predominantly lost during metamorphosis leading to 2 to 125-fold higher larval concentrations and higher exposure risks for predators of larvae compared to predators of adults. In contrast, manufactured organic contaminants (such as polychlorinated biphenyls) were retained and concentrated in adults, causing up to 3-fold higher adult concentrations and higher exposure risks to predators of adult insects. Both food web studies and contaminant management and mitigation strategies need to consider how metamorphosis affects the movement of materials between habitats and ecosystems, with special regard for aquatic-terrestrial linkages.