The phylogeography of the bark beetle Ips typographus was assessed using five microsatellite markers. Twenty-eight populations were sampled throughout Europe on the host tree Picea abies. I. typographus showed very low levels of genetic diversity, and the study revealed a lack of genetic structure across Europe. No significant barrier to gene flow was found, even though P. abies has a fragmented distribution. A weak but significant effect of isolation by distance was found. These results suggest a high dispersal capacity of I. typographus, which leads to low genetic differentiation between populations. Its high dispersal capacity is likely to have prevented I. typographus from developing important local adaptations to its host, which would have influenced its genetic structure. The nuclear data was compared to previously published mitochondrial data that showed strong differentiation between Central–Northern European populations and Russian–Baltic populations, and a founder effect in Scandinavia, probably reflecting the postglacial history of I. typographus. Discrepancies between nuclear and mitochondrial markers could be due to the maternal inheritance of mitochondrial DNA, and to sex-biased dispersal in I. typographus. The overall low genetic diversity observed on both markers on a large geographical scale is discussed. © 2007 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 90, 239–246.