Information relevant to invasion processes and invasive alien insect species management in Central Europe was extracted from two databases: a compilation of two inventories of alien insects in Austria and Switzerland, and a list of interceptions of non-indigenous plant pests in Europe gathered by the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO) for the period 1995–2004. For one-third of the insects established in Switzerland and Austria, the region of origin is unclear. Others come mainly from North America, Asia and the Mediterranean region. Among the intercepted insects, 40% were associated with commodities from Asia, 32% from Europe and only 2% from North America. Sternorrhyncha, Coleoptera and Psocoptera were particularly well represented in the alien fauna compared to the native fauna. In the interception database, Sternorrhyncha were also well represented but Diptera accounted for the highest number of records. Sap feeders and detritivores were the dominant feeding niches in the alien insect fauna. In contrast, external defoliators, stem borers, gall makers, root feeders, predators and parasitoids were underrepresented. Nearly 40% of the alien insects in Switzerland and Austria live only indoors. Another 15% live outdoors but exclusively or predominantly on exotic plants. Less than 20% are found mainly in ‘natural’ environments. The majority of introductions of alien insects in Europe are associated with the international trade in ornamental plants. An economic impact was found for 40% of the alien insects in Switzerland and Austria, whereas none is known to have an ecological impact. The implications of these observations for further studies and the management of alien species in Europe are discussed.