getting rid of cut worms organically

desertmarcyMarch 5, 2006

I read somewhere that you can use grits or cream of wheat to get rid of cutworms. The idea was to prepare the soil, soak well, and put it out 1-2 weeks before planting. The cutworms will come up and eat it, there being no other vegetable matter present, and it swells up in them and they die. I have used cream of wheat sucessfully to get rid of unwanted anthills. I wonder if anyone has used it for cutworms, and did it work? I'm getting ready to plant corn and beans--way too many plants to try to "sleave" them all. I found a dozen or more very big fat worms in the area I'm planting when I spaded it, and had trouble last summer with cutworms nipping new sweet potato plants there also. I really don't want to use chemicals.

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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Nope. Grits and the like don't work. Besides that, those cutworms eat live plant tissue, not dead.

As for the ants, your "successful result" was coincidence rather than cause and effect.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 11:15PM
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Cutworms are the larva of one of several moths, and they eat a wide variety of live plant tissue not just your seedlings. You could till your soil several times before planting, but that is harder on the soil structure than those larva or you could protect your seedlings, although there is a bit of research that seems to show that collars do nothing to protect seedlings from the cutworms. Parasitic nematodes can help control them, planting the seedlings later, like after these larva pupate, can help, and there are reports that moist bran mixed with BTK is a good control which kind of contradicts what Jean said.
However the idea that any insect eating some substance and then exploding because that substance swells in the abdomen can be refuted easily by asking your self if that ever happened to someone you know that ate the same thing. If it does not happen to humans it will not happen to insects.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 7:16AM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Drenching the soil with a neem oil/water solution seemed to work last summer. It's messy to work with but worth a try.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 10:36AM
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Ranging poultry is supposed to help with the larvae but not enough for me to not use collars on my tomatoes. Collars are almost 100% successful for me if carefully made. I lose a few if I am careless wrapping newspaper around the plants. Without them it is really frustrating to see a few plants mowed down nightly. I would rather do this than till excessively.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 1:19PM
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I'm not sure we should refute Marcy's comment so easily about using cream of wheat successfully on the ants...

We had a colony last summer which was intent on getting into our home, and when you have a log home, this is something you take quite seriously. Having animals around the house, we did not want to even think of calling an exterminator. We used corn meal, spreading it around the area, and onto the 'hill' which was 10 feet away from the house. We waited patiently for a couple of weeks, and during that time saw the activity in the 'hill' decreasing to the point where there was none.

Applications were made after rainfalls and on dry soil. The premise is that the ants eat it, then drink causing the cornmeal to swell, and so it kills them.

I do know that our Black Lab found the leftover container, ate the contents - about 2 cups worth - and was 'as sick as a dog' for 36 hours.

Could it be that the reason we don't 'blow-up' after eating such things is that we cook/bake them before consumption?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 7:08PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

I know that if I eat Indian food, a little water seems to swell the nan and rice making me overfull after the fact.

Well, there's some gas buildup usually as well...

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 10:18AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Here's the deal, folks. Adult ants don't (can't) eat solid food. Period. At least not any of the ants that we would ever have to worry about. (Not real sure about those sub-tropical species. EEK) They take solid particles into the nest and feed it to the larvae. The larvae have to break it up into small, miniscule pieces and practically pre-digest it BEFORE it reaches their gullet, making this STOOPID exploding stomach thing a myth that just won't go away. The larvae then feed the adults this appetizing gruel.

Insects simply don't have the same kind of physiology as mammals.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 12:38PM
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First, it is nice to see Rhizo's practical advise again. A real pro...listen to her.

It sounds as though you will have quite a few plants. I have found the following method to be the easiest and fastest to keep cutworms from munching young plants. When planting I just tuck three toothpicks up tight around each stem. This prevents the cutworm from wrapping around the fragile young stem, which is how they feed. When planting seeds such as corn/beans in the ground, one watches for the first sprouts and then adds the toothpicks as needed. I have never lost a plant using this method.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 4:02PM
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There is some research out ther etoday that says this stick, or wrapped plant stem, thingy does not work. However, in my garden, placing a stick, nail, toothpick or someting else next to the plants stem keeps my plants from getting chomped on by cutworms, I think.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 5:15PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Every year cutworms attack our broad beans - 3 rows, say 30 plants per row = 90 plants. 'Just' tuck three toothpicks up tight around each stem? And then wait for the wagon to cart me off to the bin. ;)

Another method is to mix bran with molasses laced with Bt and scatter it in the rows. Or gently dig around damaged plants and pick out the cutworm, although I'm not sure this prevents further damage; does anybody know how often an individual cutworm will feed?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 6:36PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Yes the exploding stomach myth has been passed around too much; however, I think it might be premature to dismiss cream of wheat or grits as a possible cause of the pests going away. Off hand I can't think of what a possible mechanism might be, but the use of corn meal to kill soil borne pathogenic fungi used to be thought of as crazy. In fact we still have a Ph.D. garden writer writing about corn meal as bunk. The interesting part is the school where he got his Ph.D. and later worked is the same school that did the research on corn meal as an anti fungal agent.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 4:25AM
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June 2011, cutworms are in an eating frenzy. We put wooden match sticks around our 100 tomato plants and now the plants are being eaten ABOVE that stick line. They have eaten broccoli, red much work. We dig around the eaten plants and sometimes find a cutworm which are quickly fed to th e chickens. If we let the chickens in the garden they scratch up too many young plants. What to do ; what to do? Going to try that molasses mixture. Our Maine garden feeds our family, children and grandchildren all year. Disheartening.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 11:10AM
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Just in case anyone else reads this forum -- I have no scientific proof of anything, but I've dealt with more than my fair share of cutworms. I have had almost 100% success with sprinkling cornmeal around the base of plants. I'm not claiming to know why it works, but it really does seem to. And I am very confident that this hasn't been just 'coincidental'.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 7:43PM
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I am actually an entomologist (urban) and would like to share what I know. First, ant workers do not eat solid foods directly. Instead, they bring them back to the nest and feed them to the larvae which in turn digest the solids and turn them into a Liquidy substance the adults can them eat. All solids are handled this way. So the notion that they are feeding upon the grits and exploding just is not possible. What may be occurring is it is causing the larvae to pop breaking the life cycle and collapsing the colony. With monogynous species of ant (only one queen) this could have a devastating effect. Polygynous species like odorous house ants have so many queens this may not have an effect (ie odorous house ants). Ants in the genus Formica (field or mound ants) often go overlooked in yards as they do not often invade homes. But their "cow herding" of aphids is a concern. They will actually protect them from natural predation so they can collect the honeydew they exude. I will look at the entomological society of americas research paper portal to see if any papers exist regarding the use of grits as a control measure. I would recommend using abamectin b1 based baits for ants as they are organic approved by most agencies (they are derived from organisms in the soil). Also. Numerous boric acid based granular baits will work as well (technically an inorganic as it does not contain carbon but it is approved on the USDA 25b organic pesticides list). In severe cases a non organic alternative might be products like Duponts advion (since sold to syngenta) which utilizes indoxacarb a bio active metabolite which was given reduced risk status by the EPA. A fire ant version also exists. As with all pesticides, ALWAYS follow label directions when they are used. Hope this sheds some light!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 1:39PM
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