All three corn rootworm species are native to North America, though much of the range expansion for western and northern corn rootworm occurred with the increase in monoculture corn production in the late 1900s.
The origin of western corn rootworm has been traced to Guatemala in Central America, where they were pests of corn for thousands of years. It has been in the western Great Plains since the late 1800s but was not considered a pest until it caused noticeable damage to corn in Colorado in 1909. By the 1940s it was causing significant damage to corn in Nebraska and quickly expanded its range to the east coast by the 1980s. In addition, western corn rootworm has infested at least 20 European counties.
Northern corn rootworm likely originated in the Great Plains or the north-central portion of the United States. It was first found feeding on corn in Illinois and Missouri in the late 1800s, and prior to that time it was grouped with another species. By 1955, northern corn rootworm was found throughout the Corn Belt. Within a few decades, the species expanded its range eastward to New York and north into eastern Canada. Presently, northern corn rootworm can be found in all areas north and east of Kansas and Nebraska.
The first injury to corn by southern corn rootworm was reported in 1828. Southern corn rootworm is primarily found in states east of the Rocky Mountains and in Canada and Mexico.