Declaring war on cutworms

never-give-upApril 16, 2009

After reading stuff all over the internet, in books, asking my extention agent it seems like it is a battle after their attack.

I would like to try to starve the little buggers out. I have 2 raised bed that were infested last year. I wonder if I removed all the soil and started new compost pile with the soil and shreaded leaves and other dead stuff. No fresh greens. Can I starve them out? How long until the worms/eggs die? Or will they just wait it out?

Below is some of the info I found and advice given in case others can use it.

Rotate your beds into another type of crop. Scout for cut worms in the evening when they're active. Use barriers around stemmed sets like tomatoes and broccoli. From what I've read, bt products are not very effective on cutworms because they're so large - by the time the bt works, your veggies are already eaten. CUTWORMS - UMaine Extension CUTWORMS - UNH CUTWORMS in HOME GARDENS - UMN UMASS Vegetable Pests - bt not always effective on most cut worms MOFGA - Cut Worm Pest Report 2006

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Cutworms start out as small caterpillars that browse above ground on almost any green foliage, including small weed seedlings. In the youth stage you would not recognize them as cutworms because they are small and greenish and, in that stage, they are susceptible to Bacillus thuringiensis biological insecticide. As they get larger they change into the familiar fat, brownish cutworm mode and hide underground during the day and fell seedlings at night.

I doubt seriously that you can "starve them out". When a cutworm fells one of my seedlings, I probe around the base of the felled plant until I find the culprit and destroy it. I get about 95% of them. That's worth doing because, otherwise, the cutworm will move on to kill more plants on successive nights before it matures to the pupa stage. Keeping your garden pretty much saturated with BT would be your best hope at preventing extensive cutworm damage. But you need to start that early in the season to get their youthful version.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 12:12PM
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Thank you zenman for the additional information.

I am removing all the grass around the raised beds and replacing it with bark. For now it is just the 2 beds that have cut worms. I was hopeing that if I removed all the soil in those beds and put it in compost piles without food that they would eat that eventually they would either die or leave that soil to find food elsewhere. I would just add shredded leaves to keep improving that soil. If that would work I could use the soil elsewhere later.

In the mean time I will definately follow your advice for the other beds just in case they show up there too.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 6:43AM
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My garden was under full siege last year. I was losing plant after plant, finding new severed victims each morning. I tried tin foil wraps and other physical barriers to little avail. Then I discovered predatory nematodes. Within days cutworms had entirely disappeared. They never returned all season.

I cannot claim with certainty that they didn't all suddenly die by some other vector, since I have not studied their life cycle. The circumstantial evidence, however, was compelling.

Many claim they colonize and remain in the soil for a couple years, but I won't take the chance. I plan to repeat the application this year.

Here's wishing nematode soldiers victory in your garden war!

Here is a link that might be useful: Insects Controlled By Predator Nematodes

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 7:53PM
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Thank you midnightgardener I will use that method in one bed and will study up on predator nematodes accountholder. That sure sounds hopeful!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 7:24AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

It was said "Then I discovered predatory nematodes. Within days cutworms had entirely disappeared. "

That's good news until you look at the facts.

The much more likely reason they "had entirely disappeared" is that they were to the stage in their lives where they transformed into pupae, the non-feeding life stage.

The next stage -- which you likely didn't recognize -- consisted of the adult, mating moths that fly at dusk and later.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 11:23AM
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I have to say, Jean001, that was a crushing blow after reading that predatory nematodes worked. I am disappointed that you did not give a solution of your own. Do you have any advice?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 11:32AM
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Cutworms have invaded my new lawn (sod laid one month ago). First detected 14 days ago, I treated with a granular product recommended by the sod company representative. The sod company generously stood by their guarantee and replaced 50%...but when we removed the damaged sod, there were hundreds of brownish-red larva among the roots. I am concerned that the pesticide applied a week earlier hadn't done enough to eradicate the infestation. What can I do? It's been ove 100 degrees most of the past two weeks, so I don't want to stop watering the yard/lawn.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 8:40PM
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Post this on a separate thread and post a picture of the larva. Cutworms look like catapillers not larva.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:08AM
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I use cans, with both ends cut off, then push them a couple of inches or more into the soil. Then I plant. The can- cylinders can be used for a couple of years, then they are rusted to oblivion. If You use a lot of canned food, just replace. Guess the old cans can be added to a scrap/compost pile. Since they rust they must add iron to the soil?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2011 at 5:42PM
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