Abstract 1 Since the late 1970s, the western flower thrips has spread from its original distribution in western North America to become a major worldwide crop pest.
2 A wide range of data sources have been used to map the original distribution in the U.S.A. and Canada, and the progress of the spread in the U.S.A., Canada, Europe, northern Africa and Australia.
3 The possible reasons for the start of the spread are discussed. The most likely reason is that intensive insecticide use in horticulture in the 1970s and 1980s selected an insecticide resistant strain or strains. These then established in glasshouses across North America and spread from there to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
4 The international spread of the western flower thrips occurred predominantly by the movement of horticultural material, such as cuttings, seedlings and potted plants. Within Europe, an outward spread from the original outbreak in the Netherlands is discernible. The speed of spread was 229 ± 20 km/year.
5 The spread has not been restricted to glasshouses. The western flower thrips has established outdoors in areas with milder winters; for example, across the southern U.S.A., southern Europe and Australia. It also overwinters in some regions with colder winters.
6 Polyphagous phytophagous thrips have many factors predisposing them to become worldwide crop pests, particularly in glasshouses. Some other species that might spread in a similar way to the western flower thrips are listed.