Invasions by pest organisms are among the main challenges for sustainable crop protection. They pose a serious threat to crop production by introducing a highly unpredictable element to existing crop protection strategies. The western flower thrips Frankliniella occidentalis (Insecta, Thysanoptera) managed to invade ornamental greenhouses worldwide within < 25 years. To shed light on possible genetic and/or ecological factors that may have been responsible for this invasion success, we studied the population genetic structure of western flower thrips in its native range in western North America. Analysis of nucleotide sequence variation and variation at microsatellite loci revealed the existence of two habitat-specific phylogenetic lineages (ecotypes) with allopatric distribution. One lineage is associated with hot/dry climates, the second lineage is restricted to cool/moist climates. We speculate that the ecological niche segregation found in this study may be among the key factors determining the invasion potential of western flower thrips.