Hidden patterns of insect establishment risk revealed from two centuries of alien species discoveries.
Understanding the socioeconomic drivers of biological invasion informs policy development for curtailing future invasions. While early 20th-century plant trade expansions preceded increased establishments of plant pests in Northern America, increased establishments did not follow accelerating imports later that century. To explore this puzzle, we estimate the historical establishment of plant-feeding Hemiptera in Northern America as a function of historical U.S. imports of live plants from seven world regions. Delays between establishment and discovery are modeled using a previously unused proxy for dynamic discovery effort. By recovering the timing of pest arrivals from their historical discoveries, we disentangle the joint establishment-discovery process. We estimate long delays to discovery, which are partially attributable to the low detectability of less economically important insect species. We estimate that many introduced species remain undiscovered, ranging from around one-fifth for Eurasian regions to two-fifths for Central and South America.