November 17, 2018 | Lawn Guides

Cutworm control in lawns: the very basics

Cutworm control in lawns: the very basics

A great number of species of cutworms belonging to the night-flying moth family Noctuidae are discovered in home gardens across America. They normally feed on grass stems at or below ground, cutting them down. They are used to attacking a wide array of plants including cabbage, beets, kale, broccoli as well as cauliflower.


Cutworm caterpillars can be defined as soft-bodied, stout, dull or gray-brown caterpillars just 1-2 inch long, tending to curl up each time they are disturbed or having rest. Cutworms feed at night, burrowing into the soil in the daytime. As for adults, they’re brown or dark gray, night-flying moths with ragged stripes or blotches on their wings. Their adults never harm plants.

By the way, large numbers of cutworms are capable of destroying about 75% of your crop. That’s why you need to consider how to get rid of cutworms in the garden.

Life cycle

The vast majority of species pass the winter as young larvae under garden waste or in the soil. In the spring, when temperatures are warm, cutworms become active and start eating plants at night while staying hidden the whole day. The larvae molt a couple of times and when they grow enough they pupate in the soil. It takes just one week for cutworms to become moths in spring. Moths get down to laying a lot of eggs on leaves and stems. 1-5 generations per year show up, based on the species.

As a matter of fact, overwintering larvae as well as, the first generation in the spring turn out to be the most damaging. Just a few species survive the winter as hibernating moths or pupae.


As a rule, the damage is inflicted at night when cutworms clip off seedling stems along with young plants below or near the soil surface. These creatures can cut off an entire row of newly planted grass for a night.

They are used to climbing plants inflicting damage to buds, shoots, and foliage. In addition to this, they have potato tubers gouged. As for late season cutworms, tunneling in fruit is what they often do.

Cutworms, just like armyworms have in impact on turfgrass. In this particular case, the inflicted damage involves cutting off blades at the plats’ crown. Well, compared to what armyworms do, this damage is quite dispersed. Cutworms generally appreciate golf courses where they generate so-called “ballmark” pockets of missing and dead turf both on putting greens and fairways.

Cutworm treatment

Integrated Pest Management plan suggests that folks require implementing a number of preventive measures against cutworms. Otherwise, they’re bound to lose their transplants. Just imagine that someday you come out to your garden and discover your newly-seeded plants brutally severed at the root. It’s a heart-breaking experience, isn’t it?

Having lost your plant because of this nasty slow-moving eating machine you might consider spraying chemicals as an effective measure. Apart from the fact it can endanger your kids, pets and the environment, in general, pesticide use against these creatures is considered to be inefficient. Nevertheless, there’s a list of clear things you need to do if you want to kill cutworms in your garden.

How to get rid of cutworms: simple things to do

  • Before you plant a new garden you require removing weeds as well as plant debris, which might feed and provide a shelter for developing larvae.
  • You should turn the soil following the fall clean up and give birds as well as other predators a chance to grasp the exposed pupae and larvae.
  • Mow as closely as you can to the edge of your lawn to give them less to feed on and also less shelter near your grass.
  • You can also create a three-foot wide bare-soil strip placing it between your garden plants and your lawn. In this case, it will be difficult for larvae to get to your plants. What’s more, you’ll timely notice them.
  • You require waiting enough before setting out starts. The matter is that cutworms are used to going on the move early during the growing season. Just let them starve before putting out dinner.
  • You require placing cardboard collars around your transplant stems at the time of planting. Alternatively, for this purpose, you can utilize milk containers with the cut-out bottom. Don’t forget to ensure that the collar is buried into the soil about 1-2 inches.
  • Sunflowers should be planted along the edge of your lawn. It’s because sunflowers turn out to be cutworms’ favorite target. So, the plants will attract them. As a result, you’ll be able to pick these naughty creatures from the ground before they get to your corn or something else.

Infestations: how to handle

  • The very presence of numerous birds feeding in your lawn might indicate cutworms in your grass.
  • You require handpicking caterpillars after dark. It would be most productive when carried out thorough watering or after a rain.
  • It’s quite possible to slow the progress of cutworms in your garden. They dislike navigating dry soil. So you’re expected to water in the morning and have your garden’s walkways cultivated a bit to a depth of an inch. The cultivated soil will dry rapidly preserving moisture beneath it. Avoid utilizing mulch providing cutworms with shelter.
  • Make the most of nematodes. Released in spring, moist soil, they will immediately attack and kill cutworms living underground. Nematodes are especially effective to apply the season after your cutworms have been an issue.
  • Having noticed moths, you need to release trichogramma wasps. To be exact, you should do it for three weeks in a row to have cutworms eggs parasitized.
  • In order to set up an effective barrio against larvae, you need to spread a line of diatomaceous earth around your base of plants. The given earth appears to be the abrasive, fossilized remains of prehistoric sea life. A line in the dirt is created when you apply it and it kills cutworms, which attempt to pass over.
  • You can also scatter cornmeal or bran mixed with Monterey Bt along with molasses on the soil surface fur the purpose of attracting and terminating cutworms.