The fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea (Drury) (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae), was introduced from North America into Japan in 1945. For the first three decades after its introduction, its life cycle was bivoltine. Thereafter, its life cycle shifted to trivoltine in south-western areas of Japan. Two hypotheses have been proposed for the process that led to the shift in voltinism: one based on a single and the other on multiple independent colonizations. To test these hypotheses, mitochondrial (mt)DNA sequences were analyzed in the black-headed type of 14 Japanese, one Korean and two North American populations of H. cunea. In addition, the same regions of mtDNA were compared with the red-headed type of two North American populations. In the black-headed type, mtDNA sequences were the same in all Japanese populations and in the Korean population, but sequences of the North American populations differed from each other and from those of the other populations. These results suggest that the process of the shift in voltinism occurred originally in Japan, and that the Japanese and the Korean population of H. cunea originated from a relatively small area in North America.