Army worms: Are they back?

The last time army worms (technically forest tent caterpillars) took over northern Minnesota, the stories became legend. Tales of the ground moving, of naked trees, of the smell, and on and on, are still told more than a decade later whenever the first one of the season is spotted. One story from near Grand Rapids said that umbrellas were carried when walking to the neighbor’s house, or the army worms would drop out of the trees and land on your head.

army worm

a solo army worm in Crosslake


The Timberjay is reporting that the army worms are back and taking over in Vermillion Lake Township, south of Tower, near Ely. They say that the only thing breaking the silence of the forest is birdsong and “a light rain of caterpillar droppings onto the forest floor.”

*Shudder.* Many trees there have been reduced to a skeletal state, but some people are seeing the bright side- the lack of leaves lets a nice breeze come through to some houses, the Timberjay reports, and a second set of leaves will emerge later in the season.

The DNR reports that the caterpillars peak every 10-16 years, and even keeps records and maps of the outbreaks in the state. They also offer tips for dealing with the caterpillars when removing them from your house: “Be careful not to crush too many caterpillars; they can smear and leave marks on some paints.”

We’ll just end on that note.

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