The diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella is a cosmopolitan pest that has evolved resistance to all classes of insecticide, and costs the world economy an estimated US $4-5 billion annually. We analyse patterns of variation among 532 P. xylostella genomes, representing a worldwide sample of 114 populations. We find evidence that suggests South America is the geographical area of origin of this species, challenging earlier hypotheses of an Old-World origin. Our analysis indicates that Plutella xylostella has experienced three major expansions across the world, mainly facilitated by European colonization and global trade. We identify genomic signatures of selection in genes related to metabolic and signaling pathways that could be evidence of environmental adaptation. This evolutionary history of P. xylostella provides insights into transoceanic movements that have enabled it to become a worldwide pest.