We show how a climatic niche model can be used to describe the potential geographic distribution of a pest species with variable life-history, and illustrate how to estimate biogeographic pest threats that vary across space. The models were used to explore factors that affect pest risk (irrigation and presences of host plant). A combination of current distribution records and published experimental data were used to construct separate models for the asexual and sexual lineages of Rhopalosiphum padi (Linnaeus) (Hemiptera: Aphididae). The two models were combined with knowledge of host plant presence to classify the global pest risk posed by R. padi. Whilst R. padi has a relatively limited area in which sexual lineages can persist year round, a much larger area is suitable for transient sexual and asexual lineages to exist. The greatest risk of establishment of persistent sexual and asexual populations is in areas with warm temperate climates. At the global scale the models show very little difference in risk patterns between natural rainfall and irrigation scenarios, but in Australia, the amount of land suitable for persistent asexual and transient sexual populations decreases (by 20%) if drought stress is no longer alleviated by irrigation. This approach proved useful for modelling the potential distribution of a species that has a variable life-history. We were able to use the model outputs to examine factors such as irrigation practices and host plant presence that altered the nature (transient or permanent) and extent of pest risk. The composite niche maps indicate pest risk in terms that are useful to both biosecurity agencies and pest managers.