Back in May sugarcane beetles, a little known pest in the Upper Southeast, began popping up in Virginia corn fields.

At that time there were no reported cases of the tiny, mostly subterranean pest in North Carolina. In May and June, North Carolina State Entomologist Dominic Reisig says hot spots of the beetle occurred sporadically around the Tar Heel State.

Reisig says, “It was actually a severe problem in the North Carolina Piedmont this spring, and I found it in the eastern part of the state, as well.” 

It was kind of a wide-spread problem in four or five counties in the Piedmont. Ben Knox, a long-time farmer and agri-business leader in the area identified the problem on several farms in the area. It was the first time in 30 years or so of working with farmers for sugarcane beetle to be such a wide-spread problem,” Knox says.

Most of the damage from this insect on corn occurs when the crop is in the seedling stage. By the time soil temperatures warm in late June and into July, the damage has been done and the beetle moves on to other food sources. Typically, by late June or early July, sugarcane beetles are gone from corn fields.

(For a complete report on the situation as it developed this year, see

A good production tip for next year’s corn crop is to plan ahead for sugarcane beetle. A number of cost effective management programs are available for fields with a history of sugarcane beetle damage, or those located near fields that received damage during the 2011 crop season.

Reisig says growers who are planting corn behind corn and are near areas used for pastures should be particularly aware of the potential of problems from sugarcane beetles.

“I don’t think the problem this year was confined to the Piedmont, but they have more natural grassland and grow more corn on corn for use as silage, since the area has a number of large dairies,” Reisig says.