Sustainable pest control requires a systems approach, based on a thorough ecological understanding of an agro-ecosystem. Such fundamental understanding provides a basis for developing strategies to manipulate the pest's behaviour, distribution, and population dynamics, to be employed for crop protection. This review focuses on the fundamental knowledge required for the development of an effective push-pull approach. Push-pull is a strategy to repel a pest from a crop, while attracting it toward an external location. It often relies on infochemicals (e.g., pheromones or allelochemicals) that are relevant in the ecology of the pest insect and can be exploited as lure or repellent. Importantly, responsiveness of insects to infochemicals is dependent on both the insect's internal physiological state and external environmental conditions. This context-dependency reflects the integration of cues from different sensory modalities, the effect of mating and/or feeding status, as well as diurnal or seasonal rhythms. Furthermore, when the costs of responding to an infochemical outweigh the benefits, resistance can rapidly evolve. Here, we argue that profound knowledge on context-dependence is important for the development and implementation of push-pull approaches. We illustrate this by discussing the relevant fundamental knowledge on the invasive pest species Drosophila suzukii as an example.