Cutworms are a general term used to refer to caterpillars that damage plants by cutting their stem close to the ground. Many species exist and though some are plant specific when foraging, others will attack randomly and can destroy plants and crops at alarming rates. When foraging around top soil, many solitary cutworms will cut plants down and surprisingly not even eat them. Foraging is common at night and lawns, flowers and ground cover plants are all targets of this destructive pattern these caterpillars will exhibit.
Climbing cutworm species are more likely to affect trees, shrubs and vines. The variegated and spotted cutworms are the most common climbing species and some will even chew on fruit and vegetables affecting vegetable gardens and their harvest during the summer months.
Subterranean species live in the ground and will affect most any type of grass or shrub. Often times people refer to them as grubs and will blame them on large damaged sections of their turf when growing grass is seemingly impossible. Army cutworms, also known as army worms, will many times have cyclical peaks where populations explode and they’ll march through neighborhoods wreaking havoc and plant destruction where feeding.
Cutworms come in many sizes and shapes. In general, they are a smooth and soft bodied caterpillar. Colors range from brown to tan to green and black. Some are solid colors; others are striped or spotted. All will pupate and molt into moths in their final or adult stage. Common adult moths will be brown or black with blotches or stripes. If you notice a lot of moth activity in mid to late summer, it’s highly likely there are some cutworms on your property and these are emerging adults that have successfully completed their life cycle. Adult moths tend to stay around the turf where they fed as young. Though they can fly well, they’re quick to identify and take advantage of untreated landscaping. Expect these moths to mate and start laying eggs late summer so the cycle can continue.
Cutworms will live and hibernate through the winter. Nestled down in the top soil or under garden mulch, they’ll be ready to come out and start feeding as soon as it’s warm enough in spring. Most regions of the United States will generate one generation of cutworms per year but in the south, two life cycles may develop with the right mix of warmth and water. Cutworms are largely dependent on rainfall. The more rain the more prosperous they’ll become and it’s been noted that years of heavy rainfall following years of drought are an especially active time for this pest. When larval stages of cutworms have “fed out”, they’ll dig down into the ground and pupate into adults. The adult moths will hatch out mid to late summer and can be seen fluttering around plants, shrubs and other landscaping in the yard. Innocent and sometimes even pretty to watch, these are the first tell tale signs you have a developing problem that should be treated. Left alone, cutworms will develop into a widespread infestation that can damage most any plant on your property.
Treating cutworms should be done at the first sign of detection. Since larval stages overwinter in the thatch, mulch and top soil of any landscaped environment, granule treatments will be effective anytime they’re applied. A good program to follow is to treat every 2-3 months with BIFEN GRANULES throughout the yard. This odorless granule will soak down into the soil and effectively eliminate feeding or hibernating larvae. Bifen applied 2-3 times a year will probably take care of any local perimeter pest and is one of the best ways to keep pests in check before they become a major problem.
If you have active cutworms damaging plants, apply the Bifen and then spray over the top with some CYONARA RTS. This ready-to-spray liquid is low odor and comes with it’s own hose end sprayer. Just hook it to your garden hose and get to work. It will kill and control any worms currently active and combined with the Bifen will handle just about any pest. It’s okay to spray on plants as well as the exterior of any structure where adult moths might be landing at night. If you expect to be spraying a lot over the course of the season, get the CYONARA CONCENTRATE and apply it with a HOSE END SPRAYER. This form will be better suited for larger areas where more product will be needed.
Cutworm infestations will start small but develop over time into major pest problems if left untreated. The best approach when dealing with an active infestation is to treat the entire yard including flower beds, ground cover, mulch islands and grassy areas. Treating 2-3 times a year can prevent cutworms from getting established in your turf but if you have an active infestation, treat more frequently to get rid of them.
Here are direct links to the information and products listed above:
Bifen Granules: http://www.bugspray.com/item/453410.html
Cyonara RTS: http://www.bugspray.com/item/cyonara_rts.html
Cyonara Concentrate: http://www.bugspray.com/item/cyonara_ec.html