Published May 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Expert: No army worm invasion in the Northland this year

“Army worms” — or forest tent caterpillars — aren’t expected to be a significant presence in Northeastern Minnesota this year, according to a Department of Natural Resources forester.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

“Army worms” — or forest tent caterpillars — aren’t expected to be a significant presence in Northeastern Minnesota this year, according to a Department of Natural Resources forester.

Recent reports of the caterpillars in the Twin Cities have some Northland residents wondering if this will be the year “Army worms” return.

“I haven’t found any areas where I think we’re going to have any large outbreaks,” said Mike Albers, a DNR forest health specialist at Grand Rapids.

The last significant defoliation occurred in 2003, Albers said. The peak years of that infestation were 2001 and 2002, when about 7 million acres were defoliated each summer by forest tent caterpillars in Minnesota, Albers said.

Infestations of the caterpillars used to occur about every 10 years, he said, but the past three have come in about six-year intervals between the end of one episode and the beginning of another.

“We’d sort of predict that it’s within a time period where it could start to show up,” Albers said.

In a typical year, defoliation begins in mid-June, he said. In a spot-check of areas across Northeastern Minnesota last winter, Albers didn’t find any forest tent caterpillar egg masses that would typically precede an infestation.

Bottom line: If you’re planning an outdoor wedding in Northeastern Minnesota this summer, the bride probably won’t have gooey, blue-striped worms on her veil.

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