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! They even cut off the plant from underneath the soil. 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.

Variegated cutworm larvae

Black cutworm larvae

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.
  • Make plant collars. Put a 4-inch piece of cardboard around each plant stem to help stop cutworms from reaching tender stems, especially right at transplanting. This time-consuming task works though it is only efficient for a smaller garden!
  • Hand pick. Go out at night with a flashlight and gloves. Pick off the cutworms and drop into soapy water; repeat this every few nights.
  • Sprinkle used coffee grounds or egg shells around your plants.
  • Circle stems with diatomaceous earth, a natural powder made from ground up fossils which kills insects when they walk over it.
  • Apply an insecticide late in the afternoon for best control. Some readers use Bacillus thuringiensism, a natural way to kill cutworms. However, note that this bacterium may harm butterflies, an important pollinator.
  • 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.


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Something has eaten the bark

Something has eaten the bark of a tomato plant and left white film on the bottom of the stem. What is this and how can I treat it?

If it is cut worms you can

If it is cut worms you can try some of the tips above. Make collars out of paper or cardboard and put around the stems. You can also try to spray the plant with insecticidal soap spray (a few drops of dish soap mixed into a quart of water).

I have some young (less than

I have some young (less than a year old) citron plants and today I discovered that a pest has eaten the leaves from the outside in and it has eaten the outer stem of some of these plants while leaving the core stem intact. Please help me figure out what kind of bug this is and how to get rid of it!

Citron is attacked by many of

Citron is attacked by many of the common citrus pests. Could it be that two pests are attacking your plants? Such as grasshoppers or orangedog caterpillars on the leaves and rabbits or rodents girdling the trunk? Depending on where you live, pocket gophers, ground squirrels, voles, etc., may chew the bark and girdle the tree. See below for some common citrus pests and how to control them. Good luck!

The stems and leaves on the

The stems and leaves on the lower part of my tomato plants are dying. Is this the sign of cutworms? I have not seen any.

No, it sounds if you have

No, it sounds if you have "early blight" which is caused by a fungus. Avoid splashing any water on the leaves. Irrigate at the ground level and do not water from overhead. Remove any plant debris. Remove leaves in the lower 8 to 12 inches of the plant. Get rid of all the infected plants parts. If caught early, get a fungicide from your garden center to spray your plants, as directed.  See more about growing tomatoes on our "Tomato" page here:

I have cucumber and

I have cucumber and cantaloupe seedlings that have been outside for a couple of weeks (zone 5) and suddenly I am finding them cut off cleanly about 3" above the ground - a couple of plants each night. I didn't suspect cutworms because the plants are large (trailing a foot or more now), the cut lines are high and I thought that it was too late in the season. Didn't find any cutworms on a search tonight. Could it be cutworms after all - or something else? Thanks very much for any advice you can offer.

It could be that an animal is

It could be that an animal is munching on your seedlings, such as a rabbit, squirrel, deer, or groundhog. Rabbits tend to cut off vegetation cleanly, while deer damage might be more ragged. If you suspect an animal pest, you might try installing a motion-detector sprinkler.
For more information, see:

I have a problem with my

I have a problem with my yellow squash plants. after the plant matures and start putting off squash, something eats the root of the plant causing it to die. I've checked for cut worms, voles and anything thing else I can think of. But it only eats my squash plants, not the tomatoes, the beans, broccoli, peppers.....nothing but the squash. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

It sounds like the dreaded

It sounds like the dreaded squash borer. They overwinter in the soil, especially if you grew squash in the same place before. If you make a vertical slit in the stem with a sharp knife, you'll see them and can manually remove the larvae. Afterwards, mound soil over the stem to encourage re-rooting. Then you just have to see if your squash will recover. Unfortunately, at this point, most insecticides are not effective.
You can get ahead of squash borers by planting disease-resistant types,  using row covers (which you remove when it's time for pollination), starting planting earlier, and rotating crops.

I planted broccoli,

I planted broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage about two weeks ago. All were cut down. I put out diatomaceous earth and corn meal and then replanted some broccoli yesterday with pencils stuck down beside them, plastic cups around them and diatomaceous earth around them. I went out after dark to check for worms and found none but went out today and almost all my plants were cut off. What can I do to stop them? This is a new garden spot that was in grass which I know makes them worse but there has to be a way to stop them! HELP!

Hi Cecilia, The collars or

Hi Cecilia,
The collars or cups that you put around the stems need to be pushed down a couple of inches into the soil so that the cutworms can't get under the collar. You can also try to wash the plants with a mix of bleach free dish soap and water. Also see the answer to the question from Karen below.

October last year we finished

October last year we finished our drive laying new turf slabs at our front door and placing a new rubber backed mat down. Over the last few months when we have lifted our mat up there have been lots of black caterpillar/maggot like grubs underneath it. A large area of our lawn (next to the mat died. Yesterday we dug up that area ready to re-turf it and found lots of these grubs. Can you please offer me your thoughts on this and how you think I may eradicate the problem.

Hi Karen, You probably have

Hi Karen,
You probably have black cutworms. Read our tips above about how to get rid of them. There are a couple of biological control methods that you can try, parasitic nematodes and Bacillus thurbingiensis (Bt). You can read more about this at

If you want to control a

If you want to control a large area use Sevin granules. If you want to treat individual plants use Sevin 5% dust. Lightly dust around the base of each plant. Individually treating plants is preferred with dust so you dont kill everything in your yard...including your beneficial insects. Just a little dust at the base of each plant will work wonders. Read the label.

We identified cutworms last

We identified cutworms last spring in our garden. Our corn and bean seeds were not germinating evenly and we dug to find cutworms larva eating the seeds themselves. We also had several seedlings cut off at ground level. Our garden is now "bare" with no foliage and we would like to pretreat the soil to make sure the larva are dead. We live in Zone 6 so the ground is just beginning to thaw. Would you recommend tilling the soil and them spraying an insecticide? Please help! Thanks!

Hi Lynsee, We don't recommend

Hi Lynsee,
We don't recommend insecticides for cutworm control. Instead use parasitic nematodes or certified organic BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis, var. kurstaki). You can make a bait with BTK by mixing it with rolled oats and molasses. Sprinkle it over the planting area before planting in the spring. The cutworms will feed on the bait and hopefully die before your seeds and plants go in.

Get some beneficial

Get some beneficial nematodes! They will eat the larvae.

Hello I live on a new site

Hello I live on a new site have lived in my house for just over 2 years I have a tiny garden and it was raining the other night and I noticed hundreds of small around 1 inch long worms all over my patio. My gras has completely does it's just mud with thousands of tiny looks like worm holes. How do I kill this off as I want to lay new turf. Many thanks Kieran Hanlon

Hi Kieran, It's hard for us

Hi Kieran,
It's hard for us to know what type of worms you have. You may have regular earthworms that come up to the surface of the soil when it rains. Earthworms are good for the soil. They aerate and enrich the soil, digest and break down organic matter, and improve soil texture. We suggest that you check with your neighbors to see if they have the same problem and maybe bring a couple of the worms to a local garden center for advice.

I have something that is

I have something that is eating the leaf of all of my leafy green veggies. I am not sure it is a cut worm. They are white or even clear w/redish legs, lots of them.
Can you tell me what they are and what to use for an organic garden?
I have also seen the red colored short worm/bug under the squash, please tell me how to get rid of them this year?
Thank you for your help!

I've caught some cutworms and

I've caught some cutworms and other caterpillars using a sticky tape or paper for catching flying insects - by laying it on the ground around the plants. Sometimes they crawl under it and I find them in the morning, and other times they get stuck to the paper.

Hi, I think I have cutworms

Hi, I think I have cutworms in my veggie patch but can't find any evidence of them whatsoever. Whatever is there is pulling down leaves into a small hole, sometimes half the leaf is under the soil with stalk up in the air. Does this sound like cutworms or could it be something else and if not, any ideas as to what?! Thanks.

It does not sound like

It does not sound like cutworms. You may have leafcutting bees but we are not positive. Are the leaves whole or have they been chewed on? What type of plants are effected?
You can spray your plants with a liquid soap water mixture to see if it will help.

Yes, careful digging in that

Yes, careful digging in that area will probably lead you to the culprit .

do cutworms attack grass and

do cutworms attack grass and when digging up the worms can they be all white and do skunks
dig and eat them leaving holes all over your lawn

You have lawn grubs,

You have lawn grubs, sometimes called white grubs. These are larvae of different kinds of beetles. The most common one is the Japaneese beetle. Please see our Japaneese beetles page for ways to get rid of the grubs.

it is september and the

it is september and the ground is full of white worms with reddish brown cutting teeth they chewed off grass roots made large gouges in my potatoes and are making a real mess are these cutworms and what kind of insecticide can i use to cover a large area

please add more clear images

please add more clear images of worms ....cutworms, how could we recoznize any worm ???

Hi Dinesh, We've added images

Hi Dinesh, We've added images of the more common cutworms and hope this helps. Cutworms come in many colors; some have stripes and some have spots. You only see cutworms at night so they main way you'll know you have cutworm infestation is if your plants are literally cut off near the base of their stems. You may also see droppings nearby.

what can i use tokill cut

what can i use tokill cut worms

The best way to keep cutworms

The best way to keep cutworms off your plants is to use a collar as they mention above. You could also use Bacillus thuringiensis which is available in most garden centers. You can kill the adult moths with bug zappers.

control for cutworms- you can

control for cutworms- you can use polytrin ,which is sprayed evening times

I have something eating the

I have something eating the tops of my tomato plants and now they are eating the tops of my cucumber plants. It is ruining my cucumbers. They have started blooming a little. I can't find any worms on them and this is the first time it has happen to me and it isn't happening to my neighbors who also have a garden. What could it be?

Some species of cutworms do

Some species of cutworms do climb plants to chew holes and edges of leaves. Cutworms usually feed at night--check the soil about 1/2 inch down around the base of the plants to see if there are any cutworms there. (Be sure not to disturb the roots of the vegetable plants.) As another possibility, could it be an animal, such as a rabbit? Slugs and snails may also eat leaves, feeding at night; check for evidence of slime trails, and go out to the garden at night with a flashlight to try to spot the culprit.

I have a larvae worm, similar

I have a larvae worm, similar to a cutworm boring holes in the soil in my vegetable garden. They appear to be brown striped with a horn like head. What kind of worm are these?

Cutworms often get confused

Cutworms often get confused with Squash Stem Borers. From what you described, I'm pretty sure you have the Stem Borer. Stem borers not only attack squash, but can attack pumpkins as well.

what is the time of year they

what is the time of year they start showing up in your garden and about when do they stop feeding in your garden ? (for southern Indiana)

In general, cutworms show up

In general, cutworms show up in spring when the weather warms. The larvae eat for several weeks before going into the soil to pupate. The moths will emerge to lay eggs that hatch in a few days. There may be several generations per year.  Cutworms may overwinter as eggs, larvae, or pupae, depending on the species. For best advice about timing in your area, we'd recommend talking to a local garden center or your county's Cooperative Extension:
You might be interested in this article from Purdue University about the black cutworm. It is for farmers that raise corn, but it has a chart about emergence times of larvae and adults of the black cutworm in Indiana:

Will they climb up tall

Will they climb up tall planters? I just found a cutworm in a seedling I planted into a very large container with a bunch of other herbs (removed the cutworm, of course). I haven't found any others and I'm wondering if they'll be able to get up into the new seedlings. The pot is a good two feet tall.

Some cutworm species do

Some cutworm species do climb. Check the soil about a 1/2 inch down periodically to make sure other cutworms do not set up shop.

Cutworms: You say, "apply

Cutworms: You say, "apply insecticide". Plz name one or more commercial insecticides that I can purchase. Thank you.

You'll need to contact your

You'll need to contact your local garden center as insecticide usage and laws vary by state or province.

A neighbor of mine is having

A neighbor of mine is having trouble with cutworms coming into their house. She said they're even in her cabinets. What can she do? It isn't safe to put insecticide inside her place or her cabinets.

We've never experienced

We've never experienced cutworms in the home (only in the garden). We wonder if it's a different kind of worm?  See this page for reference:

They have been coming in our

They have been coming in our house and they're definitely cutworms. We see them in the garden too. They're coming under the door (need to get better weatherstripping!). They seem to love burrowing in our carpet to pupate. Ugh!

Hmm. Whether cutworms or

Hmm. Whether cutworms or another chunky caterpillar, that is certainly unpleasant. We'd definitely suggest getting better weatherstripping under the door, and perhaps a draft dodger might help as well. You might also try sprinkling regular clay cat litter along the outside of the door threshold to deter caterpillars from crawling inside--the caterpillars may not like the gravelly texture. (Coffee grounds or egg shells might attract other pests to your home. Diatomaceous earth, a fine powder used as a control for caterpillars, may track in more easily and possibly cause respiratory problems to people or pets who might be senstive.)
As for when they get inside the cupboards, if you don't think it would cause other pest problems, you might set a plastic plate of molasses in a section of the cupboard--this is said to act as glue to a caterpillar. Monitor every day and replace as needed.
You might also be interested in this page, where someone had a similar problem (no solution, however):

I had cutworms in my yard.

I had cutworms in my yard. The way they come inside the house is because they attach to your clothes if you walk through the grass before coming inside. Before entering the house check the bottom of your pants and shake them off.

I have these cutworms in my

I have these cutworms in my petunias in my window boxes and they are doing a number on them. It will get down to 40* tonight, do you think that will affect them? Or do I need to get some insecticide/used coffee grounds? Please help

40 degrees Fahrenheit would

40 degrees Fahrenheit would probably not affect cutworms. Black cutworm eggs, for example, can withstand several hours exposure to freezing temperatures. We'd suggest putting cardboard collars or tin foil around the base of your plant stems, especially if they are young. Also sprinkle used coffee grounds and/or diatomaceous earth. You can also gently dig around the base of plants to locate any cutworms in the soil and remove them.

I have cabbage tomato and

I have cabbage tomato and different pepper plants together we jist had several rain storms I have to different pepper plants wilted really bad what can I do

The heavy rain could have

The heavy rain could have caused the peppers to wilt a bit. They don't like to sit in wet soil. Wait a couple of days to see if they will perk up. If not, check for bugs.

We have 6 tomatoe plants in a

We have 6 tomatoe plants in a row. They are 2or3 foot apart from one another. There is 1 in the crowd that is dying. We put miracle grow on them. We have cages around them. That one is dyin. Why?

Hi Joanne, There could be a

Hi Joanne,
There could be a lot of reasons why one plant is dying. However, if it is cutworms, you need to protect the rest of your plants. I use tin foil and place a 2 inch strip around the base of the plant with 1/2 of it above and 1/2 of it under the soil.

We wrap rhubarb leaves around

We wrap rhubarb leaves around our tomato plants after they are transplanted and have had great success with it. Slit a leaf,then wrap it so there is no room for the cut worm to crawl through I put soil on the leaves to keep them in place they also help keep the moisture in.

mine are in high desert and

mine are in high desert and have apperance of white worm the neighbor edentifyed as red head is "CUT WORM" i also hurd if planting a six pack tomato can be wraped with alumium foil to prevent worms from eating!

Hi Juju, See above.

Hi Juju,
See above.