If you’ve ever come across cutworms wreaking havoc on your precious plants, you know how frustrating it can be. These sneaky little critters have a knack for damaging seedlings and young plants by chewing through their stems at ground level.
But fear not, because, below, we’ll explore effective and natural methods to get rid of cutworms and protect your garden oasis.
Cutworms are notorious plant pests that belong to the caterpillar family. They earned their name from their habit of cutting through young plant stems at ground level, causing severe damage and sometimes even death to the plants. These destructive creatures can quickly demolish a thriving garden, leaving gardeners feeling defeated.
While it’s tempting to reach for harsh chemical insecticides to combat cutworms, it’s essential to consider the long-term consequences they may have on the environment and the health of your plants.
That’s why we’re here to guide you through natural and eco-friendly methods to control cutworm infestations.
By opting for natural solutions, you not only protect your garden and the environment but also promote the health and vitality of your plants.
Let’s dive in and discover how to deal with these garden foes using nature’s remedies.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and learn how to combat cutworms naturally.
Before we dive into the methods to combat cutworms naturally, let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with these little troublemakers. Cutworms are caterpillars that belong to various moth species.
They typically measure around 1 to 2 inches in length and can vary in color from brown to gray. When disturbed, cutworms curl up into a C-shape as a defense mechanism.
Cutworms are primarily active at night, emerging from their hiding spots in the soil to feed on plants under the cover of darkness.
During the day, they retreat into the soil or hide beneath the debris, making them harder to spot. This nocturnal behavior is one reason why it’s crucial to be vigilant in detecting and controlling cutworm infestations.
Recognizing Signs of Cutworm Damage:
One of the telltale signs of a cutworm infestation is the presence of damaged plants. Cutworms have a particular appetite for the stems of young plants, and they chew through them at ground level.
This results in the plants toppling over as if they have been cut off at the base. The damage inflicted by cutworms often goes unnoticed until you find your once-promising seedlings lying on the ground.
Another indication of cutworm activity is the presence of frass, which is a polite term for their droppings. You may notice small black or dark green pellets around the base of affected plants or on the soil surface nearby. These droppings can help confirm the presence of cutworms in your garden.
Signs of Cutworms’ Presence
It’s important to be able to identify signs that indicate the presence of cutworms in your garden. By recognizing these signs early on, you can take proactive measures to prevent further damage. Here are some common signs that cutworms may be lurking in your garden:
- Seedling damage: Cutworms primarily target young seedlings and tender plants. If you notice seedlings that have been severed or completely eaten off at ground level, it’s a strong indication of cutworm activity. The plants may appear healthy one day and be wilting or missing the next.
- Holes in leaves and foliage: Cutworms are voracious eaters and can cause significant damage to the leaves and foliage of plants. Look for irregularly shaped holes or notches in the leaves, as well as missing or partially eaten leaves. Cutworms tend to feed during the night and hide near the base of plants during the day, making them harder to spot.
- Seedling stems pushed over: Cutworms are known for their habit of cutting through the stems of plants, causing them to fall over. If you observe seedlings that have been pushed over or toppled, without any apparent reason such as wind or poor root development, cutworms may be the culprits.
- Presence of cutworms: Keep an eye out for the actual cutworms themselves. These caterpillars are usually nocturnal and hide in the soil during the day. However, you may occasionally encounter them while working in your garden, especially in the evening or early morning. Cutworms are typically smooth and cylindrical, varying in color from gray or brown to green or black. They can reach lengths of up to 2 inches.
- Damage to plant roots: In some cases, cutworms may feed on the roots of plants, particularly when they are unable to access the above-ground portions. If you notice stunted growth, wilting, or plants that easily detach from the soil due to damaged roots, cutworms may be the cause.
It’s important to note that the signs mentioned above may also be caused by other garden pests or environmental factors.
To confirm the presence of cutworms, you can conduct a thorough inspection of your garden during the evening hours when cutworms are most active.
By being vigilant and identifying the signs of cutworm presence early on, you can take prompt action to protect your plants and implement the natural control methods we discussed earlier.
Don’t let these sneaky pests get the upper hand—stay proactive and maintain a healthy garden environment.
How to Get Rid of Cutworms Naturally
Dealing with a cutworm infestation can be frustrating, but there are several natural methods you can employ to combat these pesky pests. Here are some effective techniques to help you get rid of cutworms naturally:
Handpicking and disposing of cutworms:
One of the simplest and most eco-friendly methods is to manually remove cutworms from your plants.
Head out to your garden in the evening when cutworms are most active, and carefully search for them.
Wear gloves and pick them off the plants, dropping them into a bucket of soapy water or relocating them far away from your garden.
This method requires persistence and regular monitoring, especially during peak infestation periods.
Encourage natural predators:
Nature has its pest control system, and you can take advantage of it by attracting natural predators that feed on cutworms.
Beneficial insects like ground beetles, parasitic wasps, and predatory nematodes are known to prey on cutworms.
Planting diverse flowers and providing shelter, such as rocks or insect hotels, can attract these helpful creatures to your garden, creating a balanced ecosystem that keeps cutworm populations in check.
Use biological control agents:
Consider introducing biological control agents, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that produces proteins toxic to many caterpillars, including cutworms.
You can find Bt-based insecticides formulated for garden use. Follow the instructions carefully and apply the product directly to the plants, targeting the areas where cutworms are active.
Remember to use biological control agents sparingly and as a last resort, as they can also harm beneficial insects.
Create a barrier with diatomaceous earth:
Diatomaceous earth, a fine powder made from fossilized diatoms, can be an effective physical barrier against cutworms.
Sprinkle a thin layer of diatomaceous earth around the base of plants or directly on the soil surface.
The sharp microscopic particles in diatomaceous earth cut into the cutworms’ soft bodies, dehydrating and ultimately killing them. Reapply after rainfall or irrigation.
Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that can be effective in controlling cutworms. These nematodes enter the soil and seek out cutworm larvae, infecting and killing them.
You can purchase beneficial nematodes from gardening supply stores. Follow the instructions provided to apply them to your soil and target the areas where cutworms are active.
Floating row covers:
Floating row covers are lightweight, translucent fabrics that can be placed over your plants to create a physical barrier.
By covering your vulnerable plants with row covers, you can prevent adult moths from laying their eggs on them.
Make sure the covers are securely anchored to prevent the cutworms from gaining access to the plants. Row covers also protect against other pests and help create a favorable microclimate for plant growth.
Introduce birds and chickens:
Birds, such as robins, sparrows, and chickens, are natural predators of cutworms. Encourage these feathered friends to visit your garden by providing bird feeders, bird baths, and nesting boxes.
Chickens, if you have space for them, can be excellent foraging partners and can help control cutworm populations by pecking at them in the soil.
Ensure your garden is secure, and take necessary precautions to protect your plants from excessive pecking.
Use homemade traps:
Create simple traps to lure and capture cutworms. One method is to cut sections of cardboard or plastic into small squares and place them around your plants.
In the evening, check the traps, and if you find cutworms hiding beneath them, remove and dispose of them.
You can also bury containers like yogurt cups in the soil, with their rims at ground level. Fill them halfway with a mixture of beer and water, which will attract and drown cutworms.
Employ the power of companion planting to deter cutworms. Certain plants, such as onions, garlic, chives, and leeks, have natural compounds that repel cutworms.
Interplanting these crops with your susceptible plants can help deter cutworms from feeding on them. Additionally, strong-smelling herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme can also act as natural repellents.
Neem oil, derived from the neem tree, has insecticidal properties and can be effective against cutworms.
Dilute neem oil according to the instructions on the bottle and spray it on your plants, focusing on the stems and foliage.
Neem oil disrupts the feeding and growth patterns of cutworms, ultimately controlling their population.
Garlic and pepper spray:
Create a homemade garlic and pepper spray to deter cutworms. Blend several garlic cloves and hot peppers with water, then strain the mixture and add a few drops of liquid soap.
Transfer the solution to a spray bottle and apply it to the plants, paying attention to the stems and leaves. The strong odor and taste of garlic and pepper can repel cutworms and discourage them from feeding.
Some species of fungi, such as Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae, can infect and kill cutworms. These beneficial fungi are available as commercial products.
Follow the instructions provided and apply the fungi to the soil around the base of your plants. The fungi will infect the cutworms, leading to their demise.
Soil drench with insecticidal soap:
Insecticidal soap is a natural and safe product that can be used to control cutworms. Dilute the soap according to the instructions and drench the soil around the base of the affected plants.
The soap will disrupt the cutworms’ cellular membranes, causing them to dehydrate and die.
Now that we understand the appearance, behavior, and damage caused by cutworms, let’s explore some effective prevention techniques to keep them at bay naturally.
By implementing these strategies, you can reduce the chances of a cutworm infestation and protect your plants.
- Crop rotation to disrupt the cutworm life cycle: Cutworms have specific preferences when it comes to the plants they target. By practicing crop rotation, you can disrupt their life cycle and make it harder for them to find their favored food sources. Rotating crops annually means planting different types of plants in different areas each year. This method helps to confuse and discourage cutworms from returning to the same location.
- Removing garden debris and weeds as potential hiding spots: Cutworms seek shelter and hiding places in debris and weeds. By keeping your garden clean and free of clutter, you eliminate potential habitats for these pests. Regularly remove fallen leaves, plant residues, and weeds from your garden beds. This simple practice not only helps to deter cutworms but also promotes overall garden cleanliness and reduces the risk of other pest infestations.
- Creating physical barriers to protect plants: Physical barriers act as a defensive shield against cutworms. One effective method is to create collars around the stems of vulnerable plants. You can make these collars using materials such as cardboard, aluminum foil, or even toilet paper rolls. Cutworms find it challenging to climb over these barriers, protecting the stems of your plants from their destructive feeding. Ensure the collars are placed snugly around the base of each plant, extending a few inches above and below the soil surface.
- Use reflective mulch: Cutworms are sensitive to light and are more likely to be deterred by reflective surfaces. Consider using reflective mulch, such as aluminum foil or reflective plastic, around your plants. The reflective surface can confuse and deter cutworms from approaching your plants.
- Attract beneficial insects: Encouraging beneficial insects that prey on cutworms can provide natural control in your garden. Plant flowers that attract predator insects, such as ladybugs, ground beetles, and parasitic wasps. These helpful insects can feast on cutworms and their eggs, helping to keep their population in check.
- Homemade insecticidal sprays: You can make your natural insecticidal sprays to deter and control cutworms. One popular recipe involves combining minced garlic, cayenne pepper, and liquid soap with water. Blend the ingredients, strain the mixture, and then dilute it with water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on affected plants, focusing on the stems and leaves. This homemade spray acts as a repellent and can help deter cutworms from feeding on your plants.
- Practice companion planting: Some plants naturally repel cutworms or attract beneficial insects that prey on them. Consider interplanting or companion planting with species such as calendula, marigold, tansy, or dill. These plants can act as natural deterrents or attract natural predators, helping to reduce cutworm damage.
- Use natural repellents: Cutworms dislike certain scents and tastes, which can be used to repel them. Sprinkle crushed eggshells, diatomaceous earth, or coffee grounds around the base of susceptible plants. The abrasive texture of eggshells and diatomaceous earth can deter cutworms, while the strong scent of coffee grounds can help repel them.
By implementing these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of cutworm infestations in your garden. However, if you still find yourself dealing with these persistent pests, don’t worry.
Chemical insecticides to control cutworms
When it comes to controlling cutworms, there are commercial pesticides available that can be used as a last resort if natural methods prove ineffective. Here are some commonly used pesticide brands specifically formulated for cutworm control:
Sevin is a widely recognized brand that offers carbaryl-based insecticides. Carbaryl is a broad-spectrum insecticide that targets various pests, including cutworms.
Monterey Garden Insect Spray
Monterey Garden Insect Spray is an insecticide that contains spinosad as its active ingredient. Spinosad is derived from a naturally occurring soil bacterium and is considered relatively safe for use in organic gardening.
It targets and controls various pests, including cutworms. Follow the product label instructions for proper application and safety guidelines.
Bonide Caterpillar & Worm Killer:
Bonide Caterpillar & Worm Killer is a pesticide formulated to control various caterpillars, including cutworms.
It contains Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Bt), a naturally occurring bacterium that specifically targets caterpillars.
This product is available in liquid concentrate or ready-to-use spray forms. Apply according to the instructions provided on the label.
How to Get Rid of Cutworms Naturally FAQs
What plants do cutworms commonly attack?
Cutworms are known to target a wide range of plants, particularly those with tender stems and foliage.
Commonly attacked plants include vegetable seedlings such as tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, corn, petunias broccoli, lettuce, and beans to name a few.
They also target herbaceous flowers, such as marigolds, petunias, and asters. Cutworms may also feed on ornamental plants like hostas and young trees.
Are cutworms harmful to humans?
Cutworms themselves are not harmful to humans. They do not bite, sting, or carry diseases that directly affect human health.
However, their feeding habits can cause significant damage to garden plants, leading to financial loss and frustration for gardeners.
It’s important to control cutworm populations to prevent damage to crops and maintain a healthy garden.
What plants do cutworms commonly attack?
Cutworms are known to target a wide range of plants, particularly those with young and tender stems.
Some common plants that cutworms commonly attack include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, corn, potatoes, and various other vegetable and ornamental plants.
How long does it take to get rid of a cutworm infestation naturally?
The time it takes to get rid of a cutworm infestation naturally can vary depending on various factors, including the severity of the infestation, the effectiveness of the control methods used, and the specific conditions of your garden.
It can take several weeks to several months to see a significant reduction in cutworm populations using natural methods. Consistency, persistence, and a combination of control techniques are key to achieving successful control over time.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when trying to control cutworms naturally?
When attempting to control cutworms naturally, it’s important to avoid the following common mistakes:
- Not identifying the problem correctly: Misidentifying the pest can lead to using ineffective control methods. Ensure that you correctly identify cutworms and differentiate them from other garden pests.
- Delaying action: Cutworms can cause significant damage in a short period, so it’s crucial to take prompt action upon discovering their presence. Delaying treatment can result in further plant damage and a more extensive infestation.
- Overlooking preventive measures: Prevention is key when it comes to managing cutworms. Neglecting to implement preventive techniques, such as crop rotation, physical barriers, and good garden hygiene, can make it harder to control the pests later.
- Using incorrect application methods: When utilizing natural control methods such as nematodes, homemade sprays, or companion planting, it’s important to follow the recommended application instructions. Using incorrect concentrations or application techniques may reduce their effectiveness.
- Expecting immediate results: Natural control methods often require time to take effect. It’s important to be patient and persistent in implementing the chosen methods, as it may take some time to notice a significant reduction in cutworm populations.
By avoiding these common mistakes and taking a proactive and consistent approach to control cutworms naturally, you increase your chances of successfully managing these pests and protecting your garden plants.
Dealing with cutworms naturally is not only beneficial for your garden but also for the environment. Throughout this article, we have covered several important aspects related to getting rid of cutworms naturally.
Prevention techniques were emphasized as a crucial step in cutworm control. Crop rotation, removing garden debris and weeds, and using physical barriers like floating row covers were highlighted as effective preventive measures.
Furthermore, we listed additional preventive measures, such as planting beneficial plants and flowers, using neem oil or homemade garlic and pepper spray, and incorporating beneficial fungi into the soil.
While natural methods should be the primary focus for cutworm control, we briefly mentioned a few commercial chemical insecticides as a last resort if all else fails. However, it is important to exercise caution and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturers.
By implementing preventive techniques, employing natural control methods, and avoiding common mistakes, you can effectively manage and reduce cutworm populations in your garden while maintaining a healthy and thriving environment.
Remember, nature provides us with numerous tools and strategies to combat pests like cutworms. Embrace the power of natural solutions and enjoy the rewards of vibrant and pest-resistant gardening.