What are cutworms & How prevent cutworms in garden
What Are Cutworms?
“Cutworm” 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.
Cutworm Damage in the Garden
Identifying cutworms is not as easy as you might think since different species are different colors. Some are black, brown, grey or tan while others can be pink or green. Some have spots, other stripes, and even soil hues. In general, the cutworms won’t get more than 2 inches (5 cm.) long and if you pick them up, they curl into a C shape.
Cutworms aren’t that easy to spot anyway since they hide during the day in the soil. At night, they come out and feed on the base of plants. Some types of cutworms climb up to feed higher on plant stems and the damage will be higher. In all cases, the largest larvae do the most cutworm damage.
About Cutworm Control
Cutworm control begins with prevention. Cutworm issues are usually worse in areas that haven’t been tilled. Plowing or cultivating the soil well is a big help since it kills the larvae overwintering in soil. Taking out weeds and early planting also help to prevent cutworm infestations. Picking up plant detritus is another good option since the eggs that hatch into cutworms are laid on dead plant material.
If you follow up prevention with careful monitoring, you are on your way to limiting cutworm damage. The earlier you discover the pests, the easier control of cutworms becomes since it’s easier to kill cutworm pests when they are under ½ inch (1.25 cm.) long.
How to prevent Cutworms in garden
If you are wondering how to prevent cutworms, start with nontoxic methods like plucking out and crushing the larvae or plunging them into soapy water. And when you remove plant detritus and destroy it, you will also remove and destroy any cutworm eggs laid there.
One way to keep cutworms from destroying your seedlings is to create a barrier to keep cutworms out. Place aluminum foil or cardboard collars (think toilet paper rolls) around transplants. Be sure the barrier extends into the soil to keep burrowing worms out.
You can use also use chemical pesticides to kill cutworm pests, although this should be a last resort. If you have to use pesticides, apply the product in the evening since cutworms come out for feeding.
Also, consider using organic pesticides to kill cutworms instead. A wash of bleach-free dish soap and water on your plants can also help to stop cutworms from attacking the plants. Another approach is the use of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring bacterium that target many caterpillar-type pests. It can be an effective and environmentally friendly way to treat cutworms in the garden.