Cool weather and cutworms

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

Because cool conditions have slowed growth in vegetable crops, cutworms are becoming a concern. Cutworms are the immature stage of a particular family of moths. There are many different species of cutworm. In general, most cutworm species are active in cool weather and, therefore, are more of a problem in the spring. Cutworms typically “cut” seedlings and young plants off at soil level (thus their name), but some species are “climbing” and may feed on foliage.

Cutworms hide in the soil during the day and come out at night to feed. Especially during cool weather, a cutworm may feed only every two to three nights. If you find suspected cutworm damage, dig down in the soil a few inches around the base of the plants. You may find a cutworm, which curls in a typical “C” posture when disturbed.

Cutworms have a wide host range, and a variety of vegetable crops are affected. Insecticides to control cutworms can be applied in a band over the row, directly on the soil surface. Treatment thresholds and insecticides registered for cutworm control for particular crops can be found in Bulletin E-312: 2006 Insect, Disease and Nematode Control for Commercial Vegetables —available at

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