Coming from the Noctuidae family, many species of cutworm are common in greenhouses and garden beds in the United States and Canada. Their host plants include corn, tobacco, broccoli, beets, cotton, cauliflower and also different kinds of weeds. They feed by chewing the plant stem just above the ground and eventually cut them – exactly what their name means. Cutworms live 2 inches above the soil and are most active at night.
Cutworm is a larva of a huge number of moth species. They have soft body, grayish or dark brown in color and measures 1-2 inch long. Similar to grubs, this pest also curled up when disturbed. They eat at night and bury themselves down the soil during the day. Some species also appear pink, green and black with spots or stripes as well.
Adult cutworms are moths with 1 1/2 inch body length and 1 1/2 inch wing length. They are usually gray or black ragged smudged stripes on their wings. Moths do not cause injury to plants but are responsible for starting the life cycle of cutworms.
The life cycle of a cutworm begins when the adult moth laid the eggs on grass or another green plant like weeds in the fall. When larvae hatch, they spend the winter deep in the soil or under decaying leaves in the garden. As the temperature gets warmer in the spring, larvae get hungry and will start feeding on host plant at night and stay unseen during the day. They will go through several molting before becoming pupae. After approximately a week, moths emerge and the cycle starts again. The first generation of cutworms during the spring is the most destructive. Depending on species, 1-5 generations may occur yearly.
Young plants are likely to be attacked by cutworms. They begin chewing the seedling stems near the surface of the soil and will even cut and destroy the plant. Many times, an entire row of newly planted vegetable crops will be cut off over the night but may depend on how severe the infestation is. Once the bottom part of the plant is damaged, the top will die in the long run. Similar to their cousin armyworms, cutworms are also capable of damaging the turf of an entire golf course field, leaving large brown patches.
Here are a few ideas to control the numbers of cutworms in your house garden: • Tilting the soil in spring and fall to reveal the pests • Placing toothpick near the plants stem so the cutworm will not be able to attach itself on the stem to feed • Hand picking the worms wearing gloves at night and dropping them in a bucket of soapy water • Apply natural pesticide • Call your local pest control professional for advice
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