Here are tips on how to identify, eliminate, and control cutworms in the garden.
What are Cutworms?
Cutworms is the name used for the larvae of a number of species of adult moths. Eggs that hatch in the fall can produce larvae capable of overwintering in the soil or a woodpile. They do the most damage early in the gardening season, when they emerge from hibernation. They are stealth, and tend to feed only at night, while hiding in daylight hours. Different species range in color from grey to pink, green and black and can be as long as two inches. They can be solid, spotted or striped. They tend be curled up when they are not on the move.
How to Identify Cutworms
Cutworms chew through plant stems at the base or even underneath the soil. Some species will climb plants as well and destroy foliage. In most cases, entire plants will be destroyed; they do a lot of damage in no time at all. Try patrolling your garden in dusk and evening hours, when cutworms will begin to feed. They are also partial to cloudy days. Keep a close eye on tomato and bell pepper crops.
How to get rid of Cutworms
- In the spring, emerging cutworms will be waiting to feast on your garden. Cut off their food supply by delaying transplanting or planting by a couple weeks if possible.
- Put barriers, such as stiff paper or cardboard collars, around plant stems to help stop cutworms from reaching tender stems, especially right at transplanting.
- Circle stems with diatomaceous earth or crushed eggshells.
- Sprinkle used coffee grounds around your plants.
- Apply an insecticide late in the afternoon for best control.
Keep up with cultivation. The moths prefer to lay eggs in high grass and weeds. At the end of the season, plow or till the garden and mow surrounding areas to expose cutworms and destroy their winter habitat.