What does cutworm damage look like and how do you handle it?

As a gardener, one of the most annoying pest issues you’ll encounter is cutworm damage to your plants.

These moth larvae cause destruction to plants by feeding on the steps. Here, young plants tend to be targeted the most with the stems closest to the soil most affected.

Almost every plant or crop you grow in your garden is ready food for cutworms. If you’re new to gardening, this article will discuss cutworm damage with tips on how to get rid of these pests.

With the knowledge gained from this article, you should be able to better identify and treat cutworm damage.

About Cutworms

These moth larvae or caterpillars are nocturnal feeders that target your plants, especially seedlings which are still delicate. Cutworms take a C-shape form when disturbed.

They destroy different parts of the plant such as the leaves and stems. This makes them quite damaging.

The most common types found in gardens include army, black, and bronzed cutworms. Other cutworm species have preferences for fruits, leaves, and buds of plants like trees, shrubs, and vines.

These are known as the variegated cutworm species.

Still, other species of cutworms such as the glass type have an appetite for the roots of young plants. The most active season for cutworms is spring.

This means they cause the most damage during such times. When you find toppled plants cut at, or near the bottom (closest to the soil), they’re likely to have been damaged by these pests.

Identifying Cutworm Damage

Providing far-reaching solutions to cutworm infestation largely depend on identifying the damage caused.

Cutworms leave behind telltale signs of their activity that include toppled or mowed down plants, and young seedlings or transplants being the most affected.

Other signs that point to cutworm activity include bald spots or patches, wilted plants at the top, as well as droppings around affected areas.

Having confirmed these telltale signs, the next step is to find these pests where they hide. Cutworms are never far away from the damaged location.

  • Toppled Plants

The mode of attack cutworms carry out easily gives them away.

They feed on the bottom of plants which makes it common to find plants toppled from the base of the stem. A close examination will show these plants cut from the area closest to the soil.

In some cases, damage occurs from the roots.

We earlier mentioned that certain cutworm species are notorious for feeding on the roots. So, a close examination will reveal these plants cut below the soil.

  • Young Seedlings or Transplants Affected the Most

The most vulnerable set of plants to cutworm damage are young seedlings or transplants.

These young plants are tender enough for cutworms to feed on. To find out if cutworms are responsible, you’ll need to inspect these plants in the morning when the damage done is relatively fresh.

Remember we said cutworms are nocturnal feeders.

So, you’re likely to identify recently chewed plant stems in the morning. When such fresh damage marks show, it’s a clear sign that cutworms are present hence the need to take immediate action.

  • Bald Spots or Patches

Have you observed any bald spots or patches around your garden?

If your plants are closely spaced, you might be able to identify a bald patch or two that seems out of place. Such patches show after these pests feast on your plants by cutting a significant portion of these plants.

As these plants topple over, they leave an empty patch. You’ll have to go closer to observe why the patch is appearing. Chances are that cutworms are responsible for the damage.

This is especially true when the types of damage discussed in previous points above are observed.

  • Wilted Plants at the Top

Even when the destructive action of cutworms at the base of plants isn’t complete, they may cause significant damage to the plant to cause it to wilt.

This is observable at the top as affected plants begin to wilt. You might want to check the base of the plant for a better idea of what’s causing it to wilt.

Chances are that you’ll find stems that have been partially chewed or cut. With this, you’re certain that cutworms are present and actively destroying your plants.

  • Cutworm Droppings Around the Area

Another telltale sign of cutworm activity in your garden is droppings on the ground. What do cutworm droppings look like? They’re mostly black and pellet-shaped.

Sometimes, you might find such droppings on leaves. If you’re able to identify these pellet-shaped droppings, it’s high time to take urgent steps to address the problem.

Dealing With Cutworm Damage

Except in cases of full-blown or difficult infestations, it’s not advisable to use pesticides on your plants.

There are natural approaches to fixing the problem including attracting cutworm predators to your garden. What are these predators? Having birds around will help.

Also, attracting fireflies won’t be a bad idea as both natural methods help put an end to cutworm problems.

Some bird feeders suspended around your garden in addition to native fruit trees and ornamental grasses will serve to attract these cutworm predators.

Altering the soil condition around your garden might help. Here, the goal is to provide a buffer zone these worms can’t get through to your garden. It’s common knowledge that cutworms love moist soils.

So, the soil surrounding your garden needs to be the opposite of the ideal soil.

Dry, barren (without organic material) soil can be used as a barrier around the garden. You’ll also need to actively remove cutworms by hand and dump them into soapy water.

This action can be very rewarding as it gives you the relief you seek.

Call for Professional Help

Sometimes, certain interventions won’t be effective enough to rid your garden of cutworms.

You may have to seek professional help to resolve the problem as efficiently as possible. This approach is much more reliable as pest professionals have a better understanding of pest behavior than you do.

Cutworm damage will look like any of the types described above. You’ll need to act fast to save your plants from total damage. We’ve listed some effective treatment strategies to consider.

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