Cutworm Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Cutworms

Cutworms are not easy to spot in the garden because they seek refuge underneath vegetation debris. Also, they come out at night, which is why detecting their presence is a bit challenging, unless you take a look at the symptoms and results of their damage. They are available in a wide array of species, each different in terms of their physical appearance and the extent of the damage. All of them, however, causes serious damage, which is why it is important to learn how to get rid of cutworms.

The colors will vary, but most of them are yellow, pink, gray, black, or green. The average length is two inches. Some have stripes or spots on their body, while others have a solid color. Among the different species, black cutworm is one of the most prevalent. It has tiny dark spots on its body. During their larval stage, the length is anywhere from one to two inches. In the adult stage, they develop dark wings, with a span of about one and a half inches.

Small Yellow Cutworm

A Small Yellow Cutworm Crawling

Cutworm’s Habitat

Spotting cutworms is not an easy task because of their discrete habitat. More often than not, they are hiding under decaying vegetation or plant debris. Many of them are feeding directly on the soil, while there are also others that go below the ground or climb the host plant.

They come out at night or at dusk. It is also common for them to appear during cloudy and rainy days. During the rainy months, they are more abundant. They often lay their eggs in the spring season. However, they are damaging only during the larval stage. When they are in their adult stage, on the other hand, they no longer pose any harm.

Identifying Cutworm’s Damage

Plants Affected

Cutworms have the reputation as general feeders, which is why you can expect to see them in an abundance of plants in the garden. Some of the most common host plants include celery, beans, carrots, cabbage, asparagus, potato, tomato, pea, lettuce, and corn. It also affects specific species of grass, such as Kentucky bluegrass, Bermuda grass, and St. Augustine grass.


Watch out for the following signs, which can be obvious indications of the presence of cutworms:

  • Among others, one of the most common symptoms is the presence of holes, which will be visible on the leaves of the plant. This will lessen the nutrients the plant gets, which can encourage eventual death.
  • Also, because cutworms start damaging the bottom of the plant when it feeds on the soil, it causes wilting or fallen planting.
  • In the case of turf grass, on the other hand, it also causes an unattractive appearance. They remove the blades of the grass and cause holes. They also eat the roots of the grass, which will cause brown patches. The presence of five cutworms in a single square foot will be more than enough for damages to be apparent.

Results of Infestation

The infestation on cutworms will depend on the specific variety that is present in the garden. Regardless of the specie, however, they can cause the death of the plant in cases of severe infestation. They will make it look unattractive because of the presence of holes and other visible signs of damage. Many of them can cut the stems, especially for those that feed on the surface of the soil. In the case of others that climb on the plant, they devastate the foliage and the shoots. When the host plant is young and if the pest feeds at the soil level, it damages the structure of the plant. It makes it weak, and eventually, will fall on the ground. Loss of crops for commercial growers is one of the biggest problems from the infestation of cutworms.

Cutworm Damage

Holes on Leaves Will Lessen the Nutrients the Plant Gets, Which Can Encourage Eventual Death

How to Get Rid of Cutworms

Natural and Organic Solutions

Looking for safe and effective ways to eliminate cutworms? The following are some of the best solutions you might want to consider:

  • Manual picking of cutworms is an effective method, but the problem is that this is a tedious task. You have to do this at night since the pest is nocturnal. After picking the cutworms, throw them in a bucket with soapy water until they die. You might need to do this for a couple of nights.
  • The use of plant collars will also be helpful. Many species of cutworms will feed on the soil level, damaging the stems until the entire plant falls because the foundation is already weak. With plant collars, on the other hand, the base of the plant will have the protection that it needs.
  • Diatomaceous earth is also a promising alternative in the control of cutworms. It is a natural powder that contains ground fossils. It causes dehydration to the insects that get in contact with the powder. This is better than chemical insecticides because it is not toxic to humans and the environment.
  • Another homemade treatment that you might want to consider is the mixture of molasses, wheat bran, and sawdust. This will create a sticky substance, which you have to apply directly on the leaves of the plant. It will trap cutworms, and hence, preventing them from causing damages to the other parts of the plant.
  • There are also cutworm predators that you can attract in the garden, such as toads, fireflies, moles, meadowlarks, and black birds. Grow plants that can attract beneficial birds and insects. The release of beneficial nematodes will also be a big help. By doing these things, you are allowing the predators to be the ones to kill the cutworms before they wreak havoc.
  • Cornmeal is another solution that you should not ignore. When cutworms overeat cornmeal, this will cause damage to their digestive tract, eventually causing their death. Sprinkle the cornmeal in the garden where the infestation is evident. However, do this sparingly as it can attract other garden pests.

Chemical Solutions

It is common for commercial growers to resort to the use of chemicals to eliminate cutworms. This is one thing that is challenging because the pest appears only at night and in most cases, direct application is necessary to yield a high level of effectiveness. Most of the chemicals contain Permethrin and Chlorpyrifos as the main active ingredients.

How to Prevent Cutworms

As always, prevention is better than cure. If you are mindful about the preventive measures, the problem will not escalate. With this, one thing that you can do is to keep the garden as clean as possible. The removal of weeds is a must. You should also make sure that there are no loose leaves or decaying vegetation. This is where the cutworms are often hiding. Cultivation will also help. Cutworms prefer to hide in tall grass. If the turf is frequently trimmed, you will easily detect their presence.

Leave a Reply