This article integrates studies on the genetic variation of T. urticae populations and the interspecific variation of several tetranychid species. It aims at obtaining insights into the roles of the historical, geographical and ecological factors in the partitioning of variation of species. Two types of molecular markers were used to determine whether the patterns of genetic variation in mites inhabiting different host plants can shed light on the existence of host plant associations. The ribosomal sequences of the second internal transcribed spacer (ITS2), which evolves through concerted evolution, are good indicators of long-term isolation between populations and reveal exceptional homogeneity in a worldwide sampling of T. urticae. The mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) sequences do not disclose old divergences related to host plant in this mite but rather suggest recent geographic colonization patterns of the species. Allozyme variation on a fine scale gives some evidence of host associations in the case of citrus trees. However, if any divergence of mites related to this host plant exists, it probably prevails in local populations only and it should not be old enough to be revealed by a phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial COI sequences. The phyletic constraint in the evolution of feeding specificity in the family Tetra-nychidae is investigated based on a phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial sequences. The results provide some support for the hypothesis that an evolutionary trend towards polyphagy has occurred in the family. Overall, it seems that the major characteristic of T. urticae is its high colonization potential. Polyphagy has enhanced its successful spread and may have led to connectivity between populations worldwide.