Many neural signaling receptors are regulated by endocytosis, but little is known about receptor insertion into the plasma membrane. Time-lapse imaging of the beta2 adrenergic receptor expressed in cultured rat hippocampal neurons, using pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein tagging and total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, resolved distinct vesicular fusion events mediating receptor insertion into the somatodendritic plasma membrane. A 'transient' insertion mode resulted in rapid lateral dispersion of receptors immediately after insertion. A 'persistent' insertion mode resulted in the retention of inserted receptors in surface-accessible domains, which were relatively immobile for a prolonged 'wait' period before dispersing laterally. Distinct insertion modes were oppositely regulated by receptor activation and by mechanisms differing in their dependence on the signaling effector cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase. These results reveal a new mechanism for homeostatic regulation of postsynaptic signaling and a 'kiss-and-wait' mode of regulated membrane protein insertion in neurons.