How to Identify and Get Rid of Cutworms over the Lawn

Among the many pests, cutworms are one of the most terrible. These caterpillars attack young plants and split them in two. Now you can imagine how fatal the damage they can do.

The good news is that you can prevent and eradicate cutworms easily, even without chemicals.

However, before doing so, you need to know the ins and outs of this pest and identify its presence. For a complete guide, read the following article.


Cutworm Identification

Cutworms are moth larvae that hide under litter or soil during the day, coming out in the dark to feed on plants. A larva typically attacks the first part of the plant it encounters, namely the stem, often of a seedling, and consequently cuts it down; hence the name cutworm.

Although this pest is quite well-known, and dreadful, many people do not realize the cutworms attacks their garden. The infestations appear when they are too late.

Though, maybe you could have saved those poor plants in the first place. Therefore, you need to identify them even before the first larvae hatch and multiply quickly.

  1. Physical Appearance

Cutworms are similar in general appearance. They are smooth with very few hairs and are about two inches when fully grown. They typically curl into a tight 'C' shape when disturbed.
Cutworms Looks

Despite their name, cutworms are not a subset of worms. It is the name for the larvae of a moth species from the family Noctuidae.

Like caterpillars in general, adult cutworms have a smooth body with a length of approximately two inches. If you look closely, you will see a few fine hairs growing on the surface of the body.

These insects are divided into several groups with color variations ranging from black, brown, pink, green, and gray. In a threatening condition, they can coil their bodies to form the letter ‘C’.

When fully grown, a cutworm moth generally has a dark wing color and a brown or gray body. It reaches approximately 1.5 inches in length and usually flies at night.

  1. The Life Cycle

Cutworms are the larvae of the cutworm moth, which lays its eggs in clusters in grass at night from spring through fall, depending upon the type of moth.
Cutworms Eggs

The damage that appears in your garden is the result of larvae activities. At first, the female moth will lay hundreds of eggs in a particular location until they hatch and become cutworms.

In their development into adults, larvae live by eating host plants. Since they can number in the hundreds once a season hatches, they can inflict quite significant damage.

However, as adults, the moths no longer damage plants. However, during the mating season, the female will return to lay eggs on the prospective host.

  1. Common Species to Encounter

Cutworms are destructive pests that damage many different types of plants. Depending on the species, cutworms damage plants in several ways. The most common species encountered are the black cutworm and the variegated cutworm. The adults are dull-colored brown to grayish moths.
Bronzed Cutworm

However, the identification process may not be as easy as it seems. You might be confused about the many species of cutworms with different physical appearances. Here are some:

  • Black cutworm (Agrotis ipsilon). This type is the most commonly found in various plants. It is dark in color with spots along the body.
  • Variegated cutworm (Peridroma saucia). Unlike the black one, this type has white stripes on the back.
  • Bronzed cutworm. As the name implies, this species has a golden brown color with longitudinal stripes all over the body.
  • Glassy cutworm. At first glance, this species looks transparent. However, it has a cloudy white color.
  • Dingy cutworm. The color is green and similar to leaves. It helps the insect to hide easily among the plants.
  1. Cutworm Damage

Cutworms chew through plant stems at the base. They primarily feed on 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; they do a lot of damage in no time at all.
Worms in Tomato

For gardeners, cutworms are a severe threat to various crops such as tobacco, tomatoes, corn, and grasses-type plants. Most cutworm larvae attack stems in search of food.

However, some live underground and eat plant roots. Speaking of damage, cutworms of any species can cause very severe damage to plants.

They cut the stem grower in half and left massive damage in just a matter of minutes. Here are the things you might face:

  • Bronzed, army, and black cutworms are nocturnal and cut host plants while feeding.
  • Variegated cutworms usually climb tree stems and feed on young plant parts.
  • Glassy cutworms live in the roots and eat away at the plant slowly but surely.
  • During the day, they usually hide behind fallen leaves and wait for the night to attack the plants.
  • New or young plants are easy targets because they are easy to break.
  • These pests usually appear in early spring and do a lot of damage.
  • The caterpillar is the cause of plant damage, while the adult one does not split the grower.

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.
Controlling Cutworms

Finding your favorite plant damaged just like that must be very painful. Every gardener understands how difficult it is to maintain and care for a plant to stay healthy and grow well.

Thus, although insects are remarkable creatures in many gardens, you must be careful with them. Cutworms grow very fast, and if you are late, they can cause damage to the lawn.

Detect Early

The larval forms of several species of moths, cutworms plague lawns and gardens from early spring through fall. Some cutworm species prefer vegetables, including cabbage, lettuces, peppers and carrots.
Cutworms Moth

Before things get worse, you need to take preventive measures. Early detection will prevent you from losing money, time, and energy. Therefore, these steps should become part of your routine.

  1. Do an Inspection in the Morning

Check your plants in the morning when damage is fresh and easier to see.
Regularly Check your Plants

Do not wait too late, do and regular inspections every morning to ensure the garden condition. Take the time to observe one by one for any part of the unnaturally damaged plant.

When you see any abnormal damage, and then check for any traces of cutworms around your plant. On the day, it is usually easy to see because they have just launched their action.

  1. Check Again in the Afternoon or Night

It's not bad idea to do inspections in the afternoon or evening, where the cutworms are usually very mobile.
Check your Plants at Afternoon or Night

To make sure the plant condition is good enough, you do need to take the time. In addition to the morning, you should also do inspections in the afternoon or evening, where the cutworms are usually very mobile.

If there are infestations, they will be easy to see. Generally, the caterpillar will immediately circle to form the letter ‘C’ once there is a scary movement. At this point, you can easily eradicate them.

How to Get Rid of Cutworms

Cutworms attack a wide variety of plants including beets, cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower.
Cutworms Attack

When you find cutworms among plants, it is time for you to act. No need to wait too long and get rid of them before they develop and the pests lay eggs on them again.

However, when it comes to planting care, then we will be very close to the environment. Here are things you can do:

  1. Killing Them Manually

If you do not till your soil, at the first sign of cutworm damage, manually dig the soil surrounding the affected plants to 2 inches deep.
Get Rid Cutworms Manually

Some gardeners like those hunting times when they encounter the cutworm larvae and kill them. You can use the traditional method; use your hands with gloves or tools, then finish them off.

This method is most effective if you do it in the morning or evening. At that time, cutworms will usually be more active because the soil is moist enough to find and eradicate them.

But this method may be effective if you do not find it in large quantities. If they have formed a plague, gardeners need a more effective way to speed up eradication, for example, with pesticides or water.

  1. Cleaning the Garden

Prevent cutworms from ever getting a foothold by removing any plant residue from the soil when you till.
Keep Garden Clean

Cutworms sometimes appear because we do not keep the garden area clean. Weeds, piles of dry leaves, and trash can sometimes make perfect homes for cutworm moths and larvae.

Therefore, doing the cleaning will be beneficial. You can remove plant waste, kill the weeds, and plow the soil before planting. Do not use compost because it can attract pests to come and lay eggs.

  1. Protecting Plants

You can use a simple cardboard border to block cutworms from damaging your plants.
Protect Your Plants

This method is very traditional but very effective. You can use a simple cardboard border. Give a layer of aluminum foil on the surface until smooth.

After that, you can put the collars by submerging some into the ground. Make sure the cardboard can block cutworms from entering that the plants are safe inside.

  1. Using Pesticides

Pesticides are usually not necessary in the home garden. If there is a severe problem, pesticide can be applied to the stems or leaves (for climbing cutworms).
Cutworms Pesticides

If the attack gets out of control, don’t hesitate to do something fast. By far, using pesticides is the best way to get rid of cutworms.

Generally, pesticides can kill any pests in the garden. However, you can find particular products for black cutworm, which attack soy or corn. You can buy it online or offline.

However, if you use this killer, also consider the condition of the surrounding soil. Using chemicals may leave a residue that affects the environment. But you can use the organic one for safer results.

  1. Utilizing Predators

Tilling the garden in early spring and fall can help kill cutworms or pupae or expose them to the weather and to predators such as birds.
Take Out Cutworms with Predator

If the use of pesticides makes you worry about environmental conditions, then you can find other options.

Taking advantage of the predators of cutworms seems to be a great idea. Birds are one of the most effective competitors to this problem.

Unfortunately, it is hard to control those flying creatures. But do not be worry because you can still use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria.

Releasing it into the environment will cause the cutworms to die slowly. Thankfully, these microorganisms are available at plant stores.


Make sure that the plants and soil are in a healthy condition to prevent from cutworms attack.
Precautions to Prevent Cutworms

If you do not want to risk facing cutworm damage, the best way is to take precautions. The main thing you have to do will be to make sure that the plants and soil are in a healthy condition.

Here are some things to do:

  • Generally, cutworms begin to appear in early spring. Therefore, try to delay planting for a few weeks until they starve and die because there is no food supply.
  • Cultivate often, especially before planting. This process will help eradicate the larvae and eggs in the soil.
  • You can release several predators, such as green lacewings or parasitic wasps.
  • Preserve bird species around the garden area because they can be powerful predators.


If you start to see the cutworm moth, do not hesitate to take precautionary action, such as cleaning the garden.
Pests Moth

To prevent damage, you have to be vigilant from the start. If you start to see the cutworm moth, do not hesitate to take precautionary action, such as cleaning the garden.

However, pest attacks, such as cutworms, are sometimes impossible to avoid. But do not be sad, because you can solve this problem with various available ways above.

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