Garden Tutorial: How To Kill Cutworms

How to Identify Cutworm Damage

Cutworms are tiny caterpillars that are the larvae of a common moth species called Noctuidae. When mature, these moths are relatively harmless to most plants, feeding only on nectar at night. The larvae, however, receive the name cutworms because of their feeding patterns that occur close to the base of a plant or under the soil level. These feeding patterns cause plants to be cut at the stems. When the stems fall, the worms consume more of the plant. Climbing species of cutworms can move to the leaves and buds of plants, where they sustain even more damage by chewing holes. Most destruction to plants occurs in the early growing season, when the seedlings are small and tender. Cutworms can attack various plants, including beans, lettuce, corn, carrots, peas, and asparagus. To identify damage from cutworms, you must know something about the common species, and when and what to look for in your garden plants. Use these tips to identify cutworm damage.


  1. Identify the type of cutworm.By looking for specific feeding characteristics of a type of cutworm, you can better identify plant damage.
    • Look for black cutworm damage. The largest black cutworms, 1 1/4 inch (32 mm) in length, will cut the stems at the base of plants. The smallest (less than 1/2 inch or 12 mm in length) will feed on the leaves of garden plants. If these worms cut the plants, they will do so above ground if the soil is dry and below the ground if the soil is moist or saturated. Black cutworms are black with sandpaper-like skin.
    • Identify dingy cutworm damage. Although the dingy cutworm feeds similarly to the black cutworm, it eats mostly on the leaves of plants--either those cut by another worm or leaves that grow at the base of garden plants. They also may cut stems that grow below the soil surface. If you can see the worm, it will look similar to a black cutworm, but its skin will be smooth. The dingy is about the same size in length as the black cutworm.
    • Look for glassy cutworm damage. Glassy cutworms, so named because their skin is transparent, feed and cut on young seedlings. Mature larvae are 1 1/8 inches (30 mm) in length. They spend most of their time underground, where they can cut the newly grown stems of the seedling.
    • Assess damage from sandhill cutworms. Look for the appearance of wilted leaves, and then dead plants. The sandhill cutworm is light tan with long stripes, and feeds under the surface of the soil. It is found in sandy, loamy soils. Mature larvae can be up to 2 inches (50.8 mm) in length.
    • Identify seedling damage from bronzed cutworms. These worms feed only on seedlings, and primarily those of grasses. Garden vegetables that are planted in sod fields or other grassy patches are at risk of damage from bronzed cutworms. The actual worms can be identified by their brown and yellow stripes. Adult larvae can reach up to 1 1/2 inches (38 mm).
    • Look for variegated cutworm damage. These worms cause similar damage to that of black cutworms. They cut at the surface and below the surface, and can feed on leaves. They have been particularly devastating to soybean crops in some areas. The worms have pale yellow spots on their backs and the females deposit eggs in grassy, weeded areas. Variegated cutworms can be as large as 2 inches (50.9 mm) in length.
  2. Check your garden in late afternoon or evening when the worms are active.They will begin to emerge at this time to start feeding. You may see the worms in action if they are above soil.
  3. Inspect your garden first thing in the morning.Now, damage from worms will be fresh and easiest to assess because they eat overnight into the early morning. Look for wilted plants, which indicate the worms have begun to chew through a cut, but haven't made it all the way through yet.
  4. Turn over the soil slightly.You may see the worms present in the soil. They will usually curl up when exposed.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    What home remedies work to get rid of cutworms?
    Shibesh Dhungana
    Community Answer
    Winter plowing will kill many of the pests, and expose many more to predators. In suitable areas this is a powerful means of control, for example in grain fields. Because cutworms attack the first part of the plant they find at night, plant collars made of aluminum, or even cardboard barriers can offer effective protection. Alternatively, a gallon planter with both ends removed may be used.
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  • Cutworms can be treated with insecticides, although small gardens do not usually require this. If you use an insecticide, read all label instructions to determine it is safe for the types of plants in your garden. Spraying plants is most effective when done in the evening, when worms are most active.
  • The threat of damage from cutworms is usually over in the late fall, when the cooler weather prevents the worms from further feeding and they go into hiding. However, in warmer climates, cutworms may survive through the winter to breed even more in spring, particularly if crops have not been cut back and weeds remain heavy.

Video: Cut worms, The Damage They Cause and How To Control Them

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Date: 19.12.2018, 12:36 / Views: 94573