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How To Control Cutwormscutworm control

If you’re a home gardener than you know just how frustrating it is to be walking out to take a gaze at your garden and noticing that your once healthy and vibrant greenery have been eaten into and snipped at. There may not be a troublemaker running around with scissors, rather, the culprit could very well be a common lawn and garden pest that is steadily rising to prominence, the cutworm.

The cutworm is a species of caterpillar that is known for chewing through plant stems that are at ground level, thereby killing them. If left alone, this critter can really do some damage.

Cutworm caterpillars are the larvae of some species of adult moth. They are stout, soft-bodied and gray or dull brown color caterpillars which range from 1 to 2 inches long. When disturbed, these caterpillars curl up, they also do so when resting. Cutworms are a sneaky lawn pest, often going unnoticed because they mainly tend to feed only at night, while spending the most of the daylight hours in hiding.

Adult female moths can lay hundreds of cutworm eggs at a time. Because of this fact, cutworm populations can vary greatly from year to year and, when abundant in number, they can utterly obliterate a garden.  Most of the damage caused by cutworms occurs when they chew stems of young plants at or slightly above or below the soil line.

If you have cutworms established on your garden, put a stop to them using products from Solutions Pest and Lawn.

Browse our cutworm control products below. If you have questions, order inquiries or would like free DIY advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are happy to help you via phone, email or online live chat.

  • Essentria IC3 Natural Pesticide

    Essentria IC3 Natural Pesticide

    Natural Pesticide - Botanical Insecticide
    4.9 10
  • Dominion Tree & Shrub

    Dominion Tree & Shrub

    Dominion Tree & Shrub contains Imidacloprid and is designed for the control of aphids, grubs, mole crickets, and other listed insects on lawns, flowers, trees, and shrubs including listed fruit and nut trees.
    5 1
  • Viper Insect Dust

    Viper Insect Dust

    Garden Dust
    5 1
  • Tandem Insecticide

    Tandem Insecticide

    Fast knock down and residual control of more than 90 pests
    5 1

How To Get Rid of Cutworms: 4 Step Solution

Protecting your garden from cutworms doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right approach and the right products by your side, you can eliminate problematic cutworms and save your garden from further harm. Solutions Pest and Lawn carries a variety of professional grade pesticide chemicals which can effectively address a cutworm issue. If you fear to damage the vegetation when treating cutworms, we also have green organic products that will kill cutworms without damaging any of your garden plants. See our simple 3 step process below for cutworm control.

Step 1: Identification - Before carrying on with chemical control, it is best to first identify the insect and get confirmation that the pest you are encountering is indeed a cutworm. It's not unusual to incorrectly identify an insect since some look similar. Not all insects should be approached the same way when it comes to control and also not all insects can successfully succumb to a certain insecticide so once you get the correct ID, you can then do your homework a bit on the pest and also figure out what insecticides work best against it.

Cutworms are caterpillars which can be identified via the way they curl their body into a tight 'C' when they are disturbed. They have a plump body and smooth skin which appears to have a wet or greasy texture.  The variegated cutworm is grayish brown and lightly speckled with darker brown and when observed closely you will notice a single row of pale yellow dots along each side of its body. When they grow into adulthood, they become moths.


If you are having trouble confirming that the pest on your property is a cutworm, you could always take a photo of the little bugger and shoot it to our email at identification@solutionsstores.com and we will be happy to respond back to you with the pest ID as well as offer you some suggestions and products recommendations to eliminate the pest.

Step 2: Inspection - 
Following a successful identification of the cutworm, next you should perform a careful inspection to see where these cutworms are residing and whether you have a small or large infestation in your garden. Check the damage of your garden plant and if there are any eggs in high grass or weeds. Reducing weeds and clutter around your garden can help to not only expose cutworms but discourage them from staying in the area. Timing is important when treating cutworms as they are known to lay a lot of eggs and it would be best to control them before they hatch and add to the damage.

Step 3: Control - Now it's time to move onto chemical treatment. Equip yourself with a high-quality insecticide that you can find below and mix into a hand-pump sprayer. You should also make sure that you are wearing protective equipment when handling pesticides, even organic pesticides, for any chance of skin or facial contact which can be irritating or uncomfortable. Our top pesticide suggestions for cutworms is Dominion 2L or Essentria IC3 Natural Pesticide if you want to go the more "green" environmentally-friendly route. Mix and utilize the product according to the set instructions on the label.

Apply an insecticide late in the afternoon for best control as that is when cutworms are most active. Reapplications may be necessary until you see no further damage to your garden or the presence of cutworms has been eradicated.

Step 4: Prevention - After eliminating the cutworm infestation, you will need to work to prevent the infestation from returning. 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. 
Keep up with cultivation. Cutworm 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.


Are You dealing with a different turf insect? Check out our Turf Insect Category Page.


Learn More About Cutworms

If you are doing your usually check around your garden and notice that some of your plants are lying there cut off, it may not be the work of someone that was just taking some scissors and going nuts on your lawn. Instead, it may be the work of a terrible little garden insect known as a cutworm. Cutworms are moth larvae which hide under litter or soil during the day, coming out at nightfall to feed on plants.


Cutworm life cycle

Cutworm eggs which hatch in the fall produce their destructive larvae which usually overwinters in the soil or a woodpile. Most of the damage inflicted by cutworms is done early in the growing season when they come out from hibernation. Cutworms are caterpillars, but they are often mistaken for grubs.


Cutworm larvae typically attack the first part of the plant it comes into contact with, usually the tender stem of a young plant and consequently--as their name tells you--cuts it down. A large infestation of cutworms can devastate a home garden and catching the problem early will help to lessen the destruction they cause.


Types of Cutworms

Cutworms are not the name of any one type of moth but are used as a catch-all term for a group of different moth species. 

Based on the species, cutworms can vary 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 disturbed or when they are at rest. Cutworms like to lie in hiding during most of the day, preferring to feed only at night.

Perhaps the most common cutworm is the black cutworm. They have small dark spots on their bodies and mature into the dark sword-grass moth. Another species known as the variegated cutworm are mottled brown and have a faded white stripe down its back.

Adult cutworms are moths of dark wing colors. They are usually brown or gray, and they are about 1 ½ inches long with a 1 ½-inch wing length. These moths should be monitored closely since the females will lay eggs in the dry soil after mating.


Better Safe Than Sorry: Equip Yourself With Protective Safety Equipment Before Spraying


Cutworm Damage

Cutworms eat through tender plant stems at the base. They mainly consume the roots and foliage of young plants, and will even cut off the plant from underneath the soil.

In most cases, entire plants will be destroyed by their cutting habit. Cutworms can often cause a lot of damage to a garden in a short amount of time. Even if only the bottom of the plant is destroyed, due to it being cut off, the top part will likely shrivel and die.

Around summertime, cutworms will often crawl to the tops of plants and damage the area. It's not uncommon to mistake the damage they cause with the damage of other turf and garden insects like slugs and grubs.


Make Sure You Have The Right Equipment For The Job. SHOP For Sprayers and Other Lawn Care Essentials


Approaching Cutworm Control

Cutworms can be quite easy to find where they are established. To find them, what you're going to want to do is root around in the soil around the base and you may be able to dig one up. If you don't locate the cutworms quickly, they will move from plant to plant dealing more damage. If you only have a few you can go ahead and smash them by hand, but for more severe infestations it would be best to apply an insecticide.

Apply one of the recommended insecticides above to foliage and stems in the evening or late afternoon which is prior to when the cutworms typically come out to feed. Treatment is most effective when cutworms are younger. Follow-up applications will be necessary after rainfall until the plants are past the seedling stage. 

Some organic methods of preventative control for cutworms is to make sure the garden area is clear of weeds and grasses year-round. Female moths can lay hundreds of eggs on low growing plants in the garden. Another way to prevent infestations of cutworms is to plow or till the field or garden in the spring before planting and then in the fall after harvest. Cutworms overwinter in the soil as larvae or pupae and turning over the earth will kill a large amount of them that are in hiding.




What Do Cutworms Eat?

Virtually every crop and vegetable can be eaten by Cutworms including turfgrasses and weeds.


Although the term cutworm refers to a large number of caterpillars that might eat specific types of crops, most cutworms will generally attack any crop found in their premises. Some of these crops include asparagus, soybeans, corn, cabbage, crucifers, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, and other types of vegetables. But they can also attack foliage, buds, and shoots. In essence, any cultivated crop is in danger of becoming a target of cutworms. Some species of cutworms have been known to eat weeds and turfgrasses, including pastures.



What Plants do Cutworms Attack?

These critters can technically attack many crops and vegetables, and because there are so many species virtually every crop and vegetable is subject to a Cutworm attack.


Cutworms have been known to attack almost every crop and vegetable available. Army cutworms have been known to attack wheat, barley, mustard, alfalfa, weeds, and various other vegetables. Dark Cutworms have been known to attack corn, cotton, tobacco, soybeans, and vegetables.


Because they are so many species of cutworms, their eating habits could differ, and while some cutworms show a high preference for vegetables, other cutworms could be attracted to crops or foliage, to even pastures.


Most of the damage occurs when they chew through the base of the crop, and “cut” the crop down, which is how they acquired their name. They have also been known to eat crops from the roots, consuming the plant from underneath the soil.



What Animals Eat Cutworms?

Cutworms have many natural predators such as ground beetles, birds, spiders, tachinid flies, braconid wasps, and nematodes.


If you’re looking for natural predators that cutworms have, the list is very long. From ground beetles to birds, to tachinid flies, to spiders, and braconid wasps these insects have a lot of predators. In fact when it comes to biological control of cutworms many times parasitic insect worms called Nematodes have been used to control the population of Cutworms.



Where are Cutworms Found?

Technically you find at least one species of cutworm in almost every state.


Because Cutworms refers to various types of caterpillars or moth larvae these insects can be found in all of the states of the United States. The Army cutworm has been reported to be in all of the states west of Mississippi River, with the highest outbreaks of this pest occurring in The Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. The Black Cutworm can be found throughout the Continental United States, including Hawaii, and the Bronzed Cutworm has been found in all of the states except in Utah, Wyoming, and the Gulf States.



What is the Life Cycle of Cutworms?

The life cycle of Cutworms has four stages: the egg stage, the larvae stage, the pupal stage, and the adult stage.


Depending on the species of cutworms their life cycle may differ but usually have four stages, the egg stage, the larvae stage, the pupal stage, and the adult stage. Because cutworms are moths in the larvae stage, the life cycle of cutworms is really the larval stage of moths, however, below we will go over their development.


The Egg Stage: The egg stage begins when the Female moths while migrating deposit their eggs all throughout pastures, and crop fields with low growing plants. One generation to four generations of cutworms, depending on the species, will be created each year. During the spring these eggs will hatch, usually 3 to 24 days after being laid, and the larval stage begins.


The Larvae Stage: The larvae stage begins when the eggs hatch which usually occurs in early spring, and the larvae start feedings on the plants around their surroundings, which could be weeds and crops. They will need to molt six times in order to grow and pupate. This is the stage where they cause the most damage. As nocturnal insects, they will eat primarily at night and spend most of their days underground.


The Pupal Stage: After reaching their last instar the cutworm will find go underground to find a small chamber where they will pupate and overwinter in the soil.


The Adult Stage: After the cutworms have reached the pupal stage, and spend the winter hiding in the ground undergoing the transformation, in early spring the Adult Moths emerge and the cycle begins all over again.


How Do You Get Rid of Cutworms?


Now that you’ve learned the most commonly asked questions about cutworms, you might be asking yourself, how you can get rid of cutworms, if your home garden has been cut down overnight by these invasive pests. In the following guide, we’ll show the step you need to take to tackle your Cutworm infestation.




The first step in every pest control program starts with correctly identifying the pest plaguing you. To do this you can simply snap a photo of the offender and send it to identification@solutionsstores.com and our experts will help you in identifying the species of cutworms infesting your garden and will provide you with the adequate products to get rid of your infestation.




The next step is identifying the trouble spots that have been hit the hardest by the Cutworm infestation. Digging around the earth of plants that have been eaten might be an effective way to locate Cutworms. Also making sure there is no clutter, weeds,  or natural debris around your garden will be an effective way of properly discouraging them from inhabiting your garden (and will also reduce their food sources).




The most effective way to get rid of Cutworms is by using an insecticide, plain and simple. You should apply either Dominion 2L or Essentria IC3 Natural Pesticide (For Essentria we provide this product in industrial sizes for agricultural use) all around your home garden making sure to spray the product in both the foliage and the stems in the late afternoon before the cutworms come out of the hiding spots to eat. You should apply these products every time there is rainfall, but always make sure to follow the instructions stated on the label




As with all pest control programs prevention is the best policy. Some of the steps you can take to prevent Cutworms in your garden include:


- Keep the garden weed and grass free year-round


- Plow your garden during the spring, when eggs are being laid. 


- Plow your garden in the Winter to uproot cutworms in the pupal stage, and larvae overwintering.


- Delay planting for a few weeks in the spring, when cutworms larvae eggs hatch they will have no food supplies.



Additional Resources On Cutworms

Cutworms - The Lawn Care Advice Site


Cutworms | UMN Extension


Turf: Cutworms | UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment


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