Studies of compound eyes have revealed that variation in eye structure can substantially affect visual performance. Here, we investigate the degree to which a stressful rearing environment, which decreases body size, affects the eye phenotype. Full siblings of the Orange Sulphur butterfly, Colias eurytheme, were collected from known parents and split within families among two diet treatments that varied in quality. In both sexes, individuals reared on the high-quality diet had larger eye height and anterior facet diameter, and therefore, by inference, superior vision. However, relative to their reduced body size, individuals reared on low-quality diet had proportionally larger eyes and facets than individuals reared on high-quality diet. We interpret this finding as evidence that butterflies encountering nutritional stress increased proportional investment in eye development to reduce loss of visual performance. We also found significant broad-sense genetic variation underlying eye structure in both males and females, and report novel heritability estimates for eye height and facet diameter. Surprisingly, there was greater genetic variation in eye height among males than among females, despite apparently stronger directional selection on male vision. We discuss the implications of these data for our understanding of eye development and evolution.