Changes in genome architecture often have a significant effect on ecological specialization and speciation. This effect may be further enhanced by involvement of sex chromosomes playing a disproportionate role in reproductive isolation. We have physically mapped the Z chromosome of the major pome fruit pest, the codling moth, Cydia pomonella (Tortricidae), and show that it arose by fusion between an ancestral Z chromosome and an autosome corresponding to chromosome 15 in the Bombyx mori reference genome. We further show that the fusion originated in a common ancestor of the main tortricid subfamilies, Olethreutinae and Tortricinae, comprising almost 700 pest species worldwide. The Z-autosome fusion brought two major genes conferring insecticide resistance and clusters of genes involved in detoxification of plant secondary metabolites under sex-linked inheritance. We suggest that this fusion significantly increased the adaptive potential of tortricid moths and thus contributed to their radiation and subsequent speciation.