So... What are Cutworms?
Cutworms are the larval or caterpillar stage of certain moths. There are numerous species of cutworms, each affecting certain parts of plants in specific ways.
Cutworms can vary in color from brown to gray to black as well as green and pink. Some species may have more than one color and some may have stripes or spots. Cutworm caterpillar or larvae are generally 1"-2" in length. When they emerge as adults, they will be gray or brown in color with dark or light markings on their wings.
Reproduction Patterns of Cutworms
Cutworms may spend the winter as pupae or they may overwinter in a partly grown larval state. If they are partly grown larvae, they will be particularly destructive when they emerge since they are hungry and ready to eat when the garden or field crops are being planted.
In certain species, adults emerge in the spring and lay eggs in the soil or grass. Within a week, these eggs will hatch and the larvae will feed on the nearby plantings. After several weeks, the larvae will penetrate the soil and pupate. They will emerge as adults by late summer.
In other species, eggs are able to survive the winter and hatch in the spring, where the emerging larvae will feast on early plantings and seedlings, and then go through pupation and emerge as adults. In all of these species, there is usually only one generation of cutworms produced in a year.
Found throughout North America, these destructive eating machines may not be easy to see in your garden or fields since they tend to remain hidden under debris, preferring to come out at night to feed.
Whether as eggs or in a larval or pupal stage, the cutworm almost always hides under old crop debris, trash, grass clumps or any other form of protection it finds suitable.
Symptoms of Cutworm Damage
Holes in leaves and fallen plantings are prime symptoms of cutworm activity. Some cutworms of the climbing variety will leave holes in tree and vine fruits and buds as well. You will not see the cutworms during the day since they are only active at night.
Results of a Cutworm Infestation
Young plantings may be destroyed at the soil level, causing them to fall over in the garden or field. Seedlings may be completely devoured by the cutworms.
For the gardener, loss of crops are a source of frustration for time and care spent in growing the plantings. For the farmer, total loss of the plantings/crops can occur, resulting in a serious financial loss.
Catching toads and placing them in the garden is an inexpensive natural way to control cutworms. Both you and the toads benefit from this arrangement since they will have plenty of food and you will have fewer cutworms.
Parasitic nematodes (non-segmented round worms) are another natural control that won't harm the environment, your family, or wildlife.
Toads will feast on the cutworms in your garden. Place parasitic nematodes on the soil where they will attack the cutworms.
Catch the toads when the cutworms first appear and they will help control any other cutworms as they continue to appear. Read the directions for the nematodes to find out when to spread or spray them.