Cut worm

vance8bMarch 17, 2008


My fourth tomato plant cut down by a cut worm. I thought this one was too big for cut worms, but I guess not. Look at the stem. It looks like a beaver chewed it. If you look close by the green arrow in the photo, you will see the little rascal that did the damage. He is no longer with us. I stuck the plant back in the dirt with a 'we'll see' attitude. It does not look so good right now.

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daylilydude(7 Tishomingo Ms.)

Dang critters!!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 8:02PM
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That's so disheartening to see! I had a terrible time with them last year, although they never went after my tomatoes.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 8:06PM
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They were ruthless on my edamame last year.

Someone suggested a Shish-ka-bob stick be placed right next to the stem. I've used collars for toms before. Since this year some toms will be where the edamame was, I'll probably use both.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 8:34PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Vance, that plant still has some life in it and I would have stuck it back in the ground, built a moat around it and kept the moat full of water until I saw new growth.

Cut worm collars don't work. The cutworm has to encircle the stem before it can start gnawing so the best thing to do is to prevent it from doing that.

I'd take a small twig and jam in right by the stem or some folks use plastic straws, and some use long nails, which I wouldn't use.

Cutworms can come up inside the collars which is why they don't work, but preventing them from encircling the stem does work.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 10:18PM
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I hate cutworms. I have had good luck by wrapping the stem in wax paper before putting the plant in the ground.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 11:06AM
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tom8olvr(Z5 MA)

I've had my battles with cut worms... At my old residence I fought them tooth and nail. They LOOOVED tomatoes, marigolds, impatiens, peppers (one year I thought I outsmarted them by putting HOT ornamental peppers in place of my flowers... turns out I'm not all that smart)NOTHING was safe from those puppies.

Best thing I ever found - was a plastic straw. I'd cut the straw from top to bottom:

then cut it into 4-5 1"-1 1/2" lengths

and wrap it right around the stem of the plant (where the dirt hits the root ball).

And I didn't have a problem after that - it's time consuming but works like a champ.

Also found planting later (if possible) worked quite well (I guess they're at a different stage of development?).

I had a friend that was swearing that blue jays were 'eating' his marigold plants. He'd been chasing them off for several days when I went over to investigate - BLUE JAY eating marigolds??? HA! The blue jays were eating the cutworms that ate his marigolds! He should have been thanking those Jays!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 12:01PM
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    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 1:14PM
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Wow super smart idea thx.The straw thing is such a great plan thx thx thx

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 1:27PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Tom, you'll see in my post above yours I also mentioned using plastic straws.

And while your pictures are great I'll be darned if I'd go thru all of that. LOL

I just stick them, whole, next to the plant, one on each side of the main stem, so that they're touching the stem.

The whole purpose is simply to make the width of the stem greater so that they can't encircle it with their stupid little bodies. Sigh.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 2:35PM
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lightt(6/7 Northern VA)

Many years ago I lost a bunch of tomato plants to cut worms. My Dad suggested wrapping newspaper around the stems. Tear strips of newspaper about 2 - 3 inches wide and long enough to wrap around the stems a few times. Never had a problem since. Simple, cheap and effective!

Terry Light
Oak Hill, Virginia

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 5:39PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Are toothpicks too short?

I also have a bunch of those drink stirrers that are pretty rigid and about 6" long.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 5:42PM
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tom8olvr(Z5 MA)

I did use cups, nails and sticks before, but found the straws to work the best... Never lost ONE plant after I started using the straws...

I did notice that you mentioned the straws, Doc Carolyn... but I thought an illustration might be in order :) I didn't realize it was a technique others used - here I thought I was being cutting edge (no pun intended)!

It is time consuming... and frankly a bit of a pain in the butt, but it really stopped the cutworms in their tracks. I'd rather spend time doing that than finding the plants I've had in the house for weeks gone in a matter of seconds - and what really bothered me about it was they didn't eat the whole plant! They just knock it off at the ground level and leave it there! At least if they're going to kill the plant eat the rest of it so it's not a complete waste!!!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 9:53AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Are toothpicks too short?
I also have a bunch of those drink stirrers that are pretty rigid and about 6" long.

Toothpicks are too short and too thin but if the drink stirrers are those plastic molded ones then I would think they might work/

Tom, not a problem as to cutting edge, LOL, and I must admit that when my farmer friend started allowing me to raise my plants in his greenhouses I never had cutworm problems again, b/c the stems were so thick and sturdy that the couoldn't attack them. After I did the initial transplant from the seed container, he did the rest and treated mine the same that he treated his.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 10:49AM
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tom8olvr(Z5 MA)

Dr Carolyn, at my old house I had a horrible time with cutworms. My new house (I'm still getting used to - only been a year and a half - my second growing season) I haven't had ANY problems with cutworms on any of my flowers or toms (the toms are in a raised bed too, so that might CUT them back a little). My old place I did those straw wrap arounds for EVERYTHING - impatiens, marigolds, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, GAWD it was awful time consuming... but it worked!

Interesting that cutworms can't get around a stalkier/thicker plant... I always thought they went into another stage of development, but may be if I waited it was because the plant was just that much bigger/thicker (hadn't thought of that-again, I WAS out-smarted by them so not known for my brilliant thinking)...

SO, No more cutworms, but those dang squirrels (already digging around the 600++ daf & tulip bulbs I put in last fall)... I wish there was a straw that would keep THEM away...

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 3:01PM
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Well, I'm not sure if it was worth it, as a store bought transplant would have been just as big by now, but my worm damaged plant is lookng like a plant again. I have had it under shade since it was cut down and re-planted. That thing looked dead for a while. Totally limp by the first days end. It had pumped back up a little by the mext morning, so I put it under shade and kept the water to it. I am slowly giving it more light. I think it will survive to produce produce! I did it more as an experiment than anything else. I ran around that first day and stuck shish kabob sticks by all the stems of my other plants. No more worm damage as of yet.

tom8olvr... yes, those dang squirrels! I am really amazed at how little damage they actually cause me. 10,000 holes they dig, but only a few plants do they actually kill. They do make me nervous.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 11:42PM
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I'm kinda lazy so I just use the plastic marker(Store bought or blinds cut in strips)that was in the transplant cell. I just put the plastic marker against the tomato stem after transplanting in the garden. Identifies plant and may prevent a cutworm.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 7:24PM
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anney(Georgia 8)


Glad to see you were able to rescue that abused plant. I hope you've given it protection against another attack! (Can't see anything but that doesn't mean it isn't there.)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 7:39PM
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The best thing about this thread, for me, is to see that plant surviving despite being severed from its root system. Tomato plants are magical.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 11:10PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

Sorry to bring up an old-ish thread, but I have been battling cutworms and am very sad at the loss of (so far) 4 tomato and 1 eggplant plants.

I have never had problems before and found this thread very interesting because in the past I have always had my 'maters staked with bamboo stakes before planting, and I always planted the stake too. So in essence I was doing what Carolyn suggested. This year, due to some other issues in my life, I didn't start my seed till much later. Therefore the plants were smaller and didn't need staking. And cutworms have been attacking! Argh. I read this thread last night and scurried out to stick bamboo stakes next to each plant! This morning I still had lost the eggplant, but the maters seem to be okay.

Anyway, on to my questions. First, I see how Vance rescued his plant. I didn't find mine till they were so withered there was no hope. However, I am thinking they might still resprout from the roots. Possible? Unlikely?

Second, I love the straw idea and have few enough plants that I would be willing to do that much work. However, once the plants are already in the ground, I can't really do it, can I? Second, what happens as the plant grows? Doesn't the stem get constricted by the straw?

Finally, even with the bamboo stakes I am still nervous. I am thinking I might go buy straws and just shove them, uncut, on the side of the plant opposite the stake I already have, does that seem like a reasonable plan?

Thanks all!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 11:33AM
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goofoff(Zone 8)

Viva la Dipel Dust!

i had a nice big black krim plant that was just starting to produce then i saw a few signs of "other" things growing there such as some nice big worms ( effing worms can kiss my....nevermind). they took out 2 tomatos and 2 bigger limbs before i was able to actually find who/what was doing it. But i got some Dipel Dust ( mine is by a company called Green Light out of San Antonio,Texas) and haven't seen them be back since. well considering after they eat some of the dusted leaves it explodes their stomach and they die within hours.
Also that its a pure organic biological formula that breaks down after a week and a half or so.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 2:50AM
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Well, my cutworm victim has survived, and it has put out tomatoes. Not a prize winning plant, but I am surprised at how well it has done. Really about as good as the others from the same cell pack. 'Atkinson.' I have picked probably six tomatoes from this plant that were good enough to keep (over about two weeks) before taking this picture.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 8:38AM
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Vance, what a great looking plant! Glad you were able to rescue it. I haven't had a problem with cut worms going after my tomato plants, but had a terrible time with them last year. They ruined cucumber, bean, watermelon & cantaloupe plants. This year I've been using the straw collars shown above. No problems!

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 8:51AM
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Most of the posts here address cutworms at the base of the plant.
I also have them further up the plant and they are hard as the devil to see. Anyone else have this problem?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 3:04PM
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