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Common names:  Cutworm

Scientific name:  Noctuidae

Region:  This Caterpillar can be found, as various species, throughout North America.

Life cycle:  This insect produces anywhere from one to five generations each year, depending on the particular speciesThis insect will overwinter as a pupa or young larva.

They burrow several inches down into the soil to pupate and reappear as night flying mothsEggs are usually laid in the soil but can also be found on weeds, grass, and garden debris.

Physical Description: this 1 to 2 inch long caterpillar is gray or brown, is seldom seen during the day, and curls up when disturbedIt is a plump, soft-bodied larvae, usually dull colored and scattered with coarse bristles or hairsThe adult moth is also gray or brown with pale hind wingsIt has a wingspan of about 1 to 1 1/2 inches, flies at night, and is attracted to lights.

Feeding characteristics:  This pest attacks all garden vegetables, especially new seedlings and transplants.

You can classify these insects into four groups, depending on the damage they doClimbing cutworms attack fruits, buds, and leavesTunneling cut worms eat at the soil line, cutting off younger plantsAll parts of the plant are vulnerable to these insectsMoreover, subterraneans eat out of sight below the soil surface.

Controls:  They are a good source of food to many predators, such as the Firefly larvae, Fiery Hunter, meadowlarks, blackbirds, toads, moles, and shrewsThey also are the prey of the parasitic braconid wasp, Tachinid Flies, and Parasitic NematodesIn fact, 15 species of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoan help keep this pest in check.

You can discourage egg laying by keeping your garden clear of weeds, grass, and debris through the fall.

Cultivate during late summer to early fallIntercropping Sunflowers around the border of the garden will serve as a plant trapsPlanting Tansy on the outer edges of the garden will repel the cutworms.

If you have time, place leaves of wild onion and garlic in planting holes and tie the leaves around the plantsTo prevent serious damage, cultivate lightly around the base of the plants and place a collar of stiff paper or cardboard around each plant, pushing it down one inch into the soilToilet paper rolls work greatAnother idea is to spread cornmeal aroundThey enjoy eating it, but cannot digest it and die from indigestionMolasses is another favorite of the cutworm and can be mixed with hardwood sawdust, wheat bran, and water to make a sticky substanceSpread the substance around the garden and they will crawl around and become paralyzed as the substance hardens on their bodies.

For large crops, fields should be plowed or disced as soon as crops are harvestedThis will eliminate the grass, which will discourage egg layingIf the field had been in crop or grass the previous September, it should be plowed again in the spring.

 A flock of chickens can then be used to pluck worms that have been brought to the surfaceHogs are also good at rooting up and eating cutworms, grubs and other insectsBacillus thuringiensis kills the larvae.

Return from Cutworm to Insects A-D Encyclopedia of Garden Insects

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