The remarkable navigational abilities of social insects are proof that small brains can produce exquisitely efficient, robust navigation in complex environments. Because social insects produce specialist foragers that are amenable to field and laboratory studies, they have been productive model systems for studies of navigation. Ideas derived from these studies of insect navigation have shown how simple mechanisms can produce robust and seemingly complex behaviour. This is important for a general understanding of spatial cognition as these 'insect-like' navigational behaviours are probably phylogenetically widespread. Current insect research is helping to show how simple panoramic views, without the need for cognitive processes such as object identification or labelling, can provide explanations for many findings, including behaviours that in the vertebrate literature have traditionally drawn conclusions about sophisticated high-level spatial modules or learning rules. Recent insect navigation research has only been possible because of techniques enabling the recording of visual scenes from the perspective of the insect. Without such techniques one has to intuit an animal's point of view (its Umwelt) and we discuss how this may lead to unhelpful assumptions about the cues available for navigation.