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Possible armyworm infestation reported near Pine Center

Southeastern Crow Wing County farmer Randy Smude inspects his corn after an alle1 / 2
South eastern Crow Wing County farmer Randy Smude inspects his corn after an all2 / 2

Damage caused to a Pine Center farmer's corn crop this week may be linked to an infestation of armyworms in Minnesota that has been reported by agriculture officials.

Randy Smude of Pine Center, in eastern Crow Wing County, said Tuesday pests which he believes might be armyworms ruined about 17 of the 150 acres of the corn he has planted. He said the pests have eaten stalks right down to the ground in certain locations.

"It looks like cactuses out there. I don't know what to do. I've never had it before. She's just about totally gone,” he said, referring to the crop in that 17 acres, east of Pine Center.

Smude said he's been farming in that area for 37 years, as of next month. The pests that damaged his corn have not officially been confirmed to be armyworms at this point.

Bruce Potter, an integrated pest management specialist with the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, issued a report on Friday stating that from what he has heard from observers in the fields there is a large arc of infestation of armyworms from southeast Minnesota, through east central and central Minnesota into North Dakota. Minnesota counties that had reported problems at that point included Wabasha, Goodhue, Chisago, Wright, Stearns, Brown and Wilkin.

“I am passing on information that is limited and the geographic scope could be larger,” he wrote.

Contacted Tuesday, Potter said he had not yet received any reports of armyworm infestation from Crow Wing County but that didn’t mean they weren’t any in that location. Drawn to dense grass and weeds, armyworms can do considerable damage to corn, Potter said.

“They’ll eat everything but the midrib,” he said. “They’ll eat the whole corn plant. There won’t be anything left.”

Potter noted that armyworms are different than tent caterpillars (sometimes called armyworms) that feed on broadleaf trees and shrubs. The true armyworm, he said, prefers grasses, including corn.

Treatment for an infestation may include use of insecticides but farmers should take care to make sure the pests are still there, Potter said.

“They do almost all their damage in the last week of their life,” he said. “They can make a field disappear overnight.”

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at––

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860