Cutworms

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While most garden pests will nibble on leaves or flowers, cutworms can literally cut down your garden and lawn plants. These small moth larvae can cause a lot of damage if left uncontrolled. Feeding on a wide range of plants, it is important to be on the defense against these pests and know how to get rid of cutworms.

See also: White Lawn Grubs

Cutworm Appearance and Life Cycle

Cutworms, similar to armyworms, are the larvae caterpillars of several species of moths. They get their name from the damage they cause, feeding below or right above the soil surface. The adult moths do not cause any damage. Cutworms can vary in appearance, from brown, black, tan, pink, green and gray. Some are dull and some are shiny and are about 2 inches long. Adult moths are mottled with black and brown or black and white. These larvae can lay hundreds of eggs in small clusters or singly on low growing plants or near plant materials. They can have up to three generations in a year and often overwinter in weedy areas, grassy fields, or pastures. 

Cutworm Damage

Cutworms feed on a wide range of plants, commonly: asparagus, beans, cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, lettuce, peas, peppers, and tomatoes, and many other weeds and flowers. Often, damage occurs on vegetable seedlings when the plants are small and tender, early in the growing season. They feed right above or right below the soil surface, and sometimes don’t cut the plant all the way, leaving wilted, droopy plants in their wake. These pests are most active in the morning and evening and very active in the spring. They are rarely a problem after the spring growing season.

Cutworm Control – How to Get Rid of Cutworms

It can be difficult to get rid of cutworms in the garden or yard, but if you know what to look for, controlling cutworms yourself can be easy.
  • Monitor: Make sure you are monitoring your plants often, especially in the morning and evening when the cutworms are more active. Inspecting in the morning makes it easier to see fresh damage. Picking the cutworms off by hand (and then placing them in soapy water) can be very effective, especially with smaller cutworm populations.
  • Cultural: Remove weeds and plant residue and debris, which provide optimal egg deposit areas. Pulling young weeds reduces food sources, and tilling in the fall brings up overwintering larvae and helps to kill them and removes plant debris.
  • Physical: You can create physical barriers around transplants and seedlings to protect them from feedings.
  • Chemical: Your cutworm population might be difficult to control without chemicals, so choose chemicals that leave have a residual affect, like permethrin. Always read instructions and use caution when using pesticides.
 

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