Europe is attempting to contain or, in some regions, to eradicate the invading and maize destroying western corn rootworm (WCR). Eradication and containment measures include crop rotation and insecticide treatments within different types of buffer zones surrounding new introduction points. However, quantitative estimates of the relationship between the probability of adult dispersal and distance from an introduction point have not been used to determine the width of buffer zones. We address this by fitting dispersal models of the negative exponential and negative power law families in logarithmic and non-logarithmic form to recapture data from nine mark-release-recapture experiments of marked WCR adults from habitats as typically found in the vicinity of airports in southern Hungary in 2003 and 2004. After each release of 4000–6300 marked WCR, recaptures were recorded three times using non-baited yellow sticky traps at 30–305 m from the release point and sex pheromone-baited transparent sticky traps placed at 500–3500 m. Both the negative exponential and negative power law models in non-log form presented the best overall fit to the numbers of recaptured adults (1% recapture rate). The negative exponential model in log form presented the best fit to the data in the tail. The models suggested that half of the dispersing WCR adults travelling along a given bearing will have travelled between 117 and 425 m and 1% of the adults between 775 and 8250 m after 1 day. An individual-based model of dispersal and mortality over a generation of WCR adults indicated that 9.7–45.3% of the adults would escape a focus zone (where maize is only grown once in 3 consecutive years) of 1 km radius and 0.6–21% a safety zone (where maize is only grown once in 2 consecutive years) of 5 km radius and consequently current European Commission (EC) measures are inadequate for the eradication of WCR in Europe. Although buffer zones large enough to allow eradication would be economically unpalatable, an increase of the minimum width of the focus zone from 1 to 5 km and the safety zone from 5 to 50 km would improve the management of local dispersal.