Plants that cutworms attack

anney(Georgia 8)March 16, 2008

Just curious about your experience with cutworm damage. How likely is it?

I recently read that newly set out broccoli plants need protection from cutworms, and I know how to do that for individual plants -- with cardboard collars or upright nails right next to the stem when planted. Since I didn't know that they'd take down broccoli plants, I thought I'd check to see what other young seedlings need to be protected and found this list:

Common host plants: Tomato, pepper, cabbage, peas, beans, and squash.

Okay... I've never had cutworm damage on peas or squash and have never heard they'd need protection.

The same site listed these plants as needing protection in addition:

Beans, Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Collards, Cucumbers, Endive, Kale, Lettuce, Lima Beans, Melons, Muskmelons, Onions, Parsley, Parsnips, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Radishes, Snap Beans, and Sweet Corn

I was surprised to see some of the plants listed as being vulnerable. Corn? Onions? Potatoes?

I know that cutworms are less likely to attack larger plants, seem to like the young tender ones. So the melons and peppers and cukes that I start inside and grow to a sturdy size aren't likely to attract them.

But have you ever had cutworm damage from any of the plants listed above if you direct-sow them?

Here is a link that might be useful: Cutworms

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I have no experience with cutworms, but if I were you I'd limit the cardboard collars (you can also use newspaper to wrap around the lower stems) just to the transplants since they take so long to grow to transplant size. And with the others, I'd experiment. You may not have any cutworms in the first place. I've read before that they are more abundant in newly turned sod. I turned over my sod three years ago and haven't had a single problem. Maybe you could just throw out some seeds into your garden and see what happens. Best of luck, and happy Spring.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 8:52AM
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I never had cutworm damage until last year. I had a terrible time! Apparently, from talking to local garden centers, I wasn't the only one in this area that did. Here's what got hit: 2 rounds of plantings on watermelon (4 of 6 plants), 3 rounds of plants of cantaloupe (all, 15 plants, total), 2 plantings of peas (all), 2 plantings of pole beans (all), 1 planting of bush beans (all but 4 plants), 1 planting of cucumbers (all but 2 plants). The cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumbers were all seedlings, already starting to trail when I planted them outside.

It was incredibly disheartening. I was dumb about it and just kept planting when I found one plant that had been chewed through. This year I'm going to use collars around the plants.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 8:59AM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Boo, that's terrible!

Gee whiz, you can't put a physical barrier on every pea and bean plant, can you? FWIW, BT is recommended at the link to kill cutworms before planting anything but I don't think it's organic:

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bactur, Dipel, SOK-BT, Thuricide) 2.0 to 3.0 tbsp will kill cutworms and is safe. Worms get sick the first day and die later.

Diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the base of plants is also recommended on other sites as a non-toxic repellent.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cutworm Control

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 9:24AM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Funny you should bring up cutworms today, since I just got through squishing a whole bunch of them. Yeah, I know it's disgusting, but after seeing how much damage they did, I got a certain pleasure out of it. They ate the tops off of my fall planted carrots, the parsley, and the fall planted lettuce, but for some reason the spinach is still standing. Last year, I lost several pepper transplants, and kept finding my newly sprouted bean plants laid out on the ground in the mornings. I wasn't sure what did it then, but this time I caught them when I lifted up my row cover. I bet there were at least 20 of them! My plan this year is to stick wooden skewers on two sides of the stems of all my transplants. My garden is only 60 sq. ft., so it is worth whatever effort is required to protect my plants.

The bug battle of '08 has now begun!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 7:07PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Cutworms attack our broad beans at the base, making them topple over and die. And they chew into asparagus spears below the soil level, causing spears to curve sharply above ground.

I started planting the beans extra close so a few gaps don't matter. In the morning I pull up any wilted plants, then carefully grope around in the soil there, and find the culprit 99% of the time. I squash it between rocks or under my boot.

A mixture of wheat bran, molasses and Bt sprinkled around the stalks of affected plants makes a harmless poison - the cutworms come up at night and feed on it. This seemed to lessen the damage in the broad bean patch last year, the first year I tried it. Our asparagus rows are awfully long (~200 feet of rows) but I may try this recipe around them too this spring.

Also - chickens! After turning the soil in the spring, let chickens loose in the garden and they dig some up.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 7:21PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

I had no idea they were a substantial pest to so many gardeners. I've occasionally taken precautionary steps against them without knowing if any were around.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 8:38PM
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vickima(z5 MA)

I had a horrible time with cutworms year before last. I wonder if it was because it was a wetter spring? I planted asparagus last year and am sorry to hear they go after those too. Last year I planted radishes as a trap crop, but I don't think I lost a single one to a cutworm. I tried spreading bran with Bt, but don't know that it did much.

This year I will try a new product Sluggo Plus, which has spinosad for cutworm control. Don't know if they will eat it, but I figure if I keep trying I might eventually get the population under control. Like others here I take particular delight in squishing the ones that have murdered my seedlings, and I'm getting pretty darn good at tracking them down.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 9:11PM
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Just for the record.

Here is a link that might be useful: BT~ Cornell,edu

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 11:56PM
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Sigh, I think I am in big trouble now. Thanks a whole bunch for this post, Anney, I will hold you responsible.

See, as I was reading this thread I thought "I have never had a single problem with cutworms.".

The last time I read a thread and thought similar was years ago when I was reading about all the disease problems people were having with tomatos. I thought "Wow, I have never had any problem growing tomatos, they are pretty much bullet proof plants". Since then I have had nothing but disease problems with my beloved tomatos.

So, I am sure I will now have cutworm damage as well.

Thanks, Anney. Grrrrrrr... ;-)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 12:20AM
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I to have them (cutworms) bad this year 2 rounds they ate my cucumbers .And snails & pillbugs are bad to this year.I go out at night but havent seen them yet so they still live hehehe

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 1:41AM
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We capture rainwater for watering our garden, and put BT doughnuts in the tanks to control mosquitoes. We use the water to overhead water things like broccoli, cauliflower, and any other veggie that is prone to cabbage worms. Then we use the water at the base of tomatoes, peppers, etc. to control cutworms. It has worked for us for several years. We also water the flowers and shrubs with the BT water, but only at the base because it is lethal to butterflies.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 7:52AM
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anney(Georgia 8)



Well, look at it this way. At least by the time your plants suffered from those diseases you'd read about, you knew what to do!

Same is true for cutworms, though as for me, I still don't know the most efficient way to keep them away from rows of peas and beans or anything else that you have to direct-sow a lot of seeds for!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 10:34AM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Vera's Cornell link says the variety of Bt used against mosquitoes is different from the one (Kurstaki) that kills worms like cutworms. Using the same Bt for both purposes sounds brilliant - so the variety is not crucial?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 10:42AM
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My past tomato seedlings are the only plants to get "cutwormed". Took care of the problem with 2 toothpics on either side of each seedling.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 1:17PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Vera, thanks for you Cornell link... I notice that the link mentions that the BT is ineffictive on the Beet Army Worm. I think that this is what must have anhialated my spinach as BT did not seem to do much if anything to prevent the damage.. (I will need to come up with a plan B for this fall when I plant spinach again.)

I find that the 2 liter (I usually use clear) make excellent collars for cutworms. Each bottle will make at least 2 collars. I cut the top and bottom off and then cut the cylinder in half. A sharp non-serrated thin-bladed knife works the best to cut the bottle. The collars can be kept either on a tomato stake, or put in a sack to be reused each year, or recyled and new collars cut each year.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 2:40PM
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B.t. isrealensis shows little to no activity on anything but Diptera pests i.e. mosquitos and biting flies. there may have been a repellent effect, but it should not have effected any worms.

B.t. kurstakii or aizawa are the strains that work on lepidoptera pests ( worms)

B.t. tenebrionis is the strain that works on beetles

Beet Army Worm are a very hard pest to kill. High rates of Spinosad SHOULD take care of them, but it isnt working as well as it once did in commercial applications. The nice thing about spinosad is it is a very safe chemical and in certain formulations ( Entrust) it is OMRI organic certified. It is made from the fermentation of a bacterial byproduct. The biggest problem in commercial production is that Spinosad is pretty expensive, 6 dollars an ounce x 6 oz to the acre plus application cost of ~$8.00 or more per acre.

Cutworms can usually be easily controlled by a directed spray of a pyrethroid around and on the base of the plant.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 10:48PM
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Here is a link to my post over in the tomato forum. I thought I was through with cutworms this year. Not so. What a waste! I was amazed that I had come so close to catching him in the act.


Here is a link that might be useful: Thread with a picture of sut worm damage

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 8:17AM
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Just found this neat idea in tomatoe form here is link hope it works.

Here is a link that might be useful: cutworm straw

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 2:09PM
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Here's a tip to prevent cutworm damage. When planting seedlings put a nail alongside it. The cutworm will not be able to wrap it's body around the plant.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:40PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

About the only cutworm damage I recall was on newly set out tomato transplants. Since I have been raising my own plants, I don't recall any damage. I am guessing that the reason is that my transplants are thicker stemed and WELL hardened when set out. I harden my broccoli too...perhaps more than most...same for melons. It seems that tender stems are at risk.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 10:39PM
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Everyone gets junk mail. I use the flat card 'announcements'. Cut a 2" length of the card-height and wrap it around the stem of the plant. Use masking tape to close and push the collar 1" into the soil....voila! The collar will decompose in a month or so.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 11:49AM
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