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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.
More Articles:


We identified cutworms last

By Lynsee on March 7

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!

Get some beneficial

By Sasha on March 28

Get some beneficial nematodes! They will eat the larvae.

Hi Lynsee, We don't recommend

By Almanac Staff on March 9

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.


Hello I live on a new site

By Kieran Hanlon on February 28

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

By Almanac Staff on March 2

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

By Alice Gilbreath

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

By Patricia Langstaff

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

By E Rowl

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.

Yes, careful digging in that

By Pigpen

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

It does not sound like

By Almanac Staff

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.

do cutworms attack grass and

By garry foster

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,

By Almanac Staff

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

By garry foster

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

By dinesh shetty

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

Hi Dinesh, We've added images

By Almanac Staff

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

By alangalton

what can i use tokill cut worms

The best way to keep cutworms

By georgewilson

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

By cheema

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

I have something eating the

By Jenett

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

By Almanac Staff

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

By Joyce Fessler

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

By Mickey Anderson

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

By steve mcgill

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

By Almanac Staff

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

By Lissa Brooks

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

By Almanac Staff

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

By kunio kobayashi

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

You'll need to contact your

By Almanac Staff

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

By Sharon H

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.

I had cutworms in my yard.

By iza

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.

We've never experienced

By Almanac Staff

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

By mooflyfoof

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

By Almanac Staff

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 have these cutworms in my

By lisamllr

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

By Almanac Staff

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

By Rickie Gilbert

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

By Almanac Staff

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

By joanne mallory

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

By Celeste Longacre

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

By V and P

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

By ju ju

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!

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