How to Get Rid of Cutworms for Good

Are cutworms wreaking havoc in your garden, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake? These pesky garden pests may be small, but their appetite for destruction is immense. this will put you on your toes looking for how to get rid of cutworms.

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of cutworms, exploring what they are and the havoc they wreak on our beloved plants. More importantly, we’ll equip you with effective strategies to eliminate these critters from your garden and restore peace and prosperity to your green oasis.

Cutworms are sneaky little creatures that belong to the family of moth larvae. Despite their name, they don’t cut plants but instead, chew through the stems at ground level.

This nocturnal behavior makes them particularly challenging to spot during the day. They can cause significant damage to a wide range of plants, including vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even young trees.

If left unchecked, they can decimate an entire garden in no time, leaving gardeners frustrated and disheartened.

Now, you might be wondering why it’s so crucial to get rid of cutworms effectively. Well, aside from the obvious destruction they cause, cutworms can hinder the growth and development of your plants.

The severed stems not only impede the flow of nutrients and water but also make the plants susceptible to infections and diseases.

By eliminating cutworms from your garden, you’re not only preserving the aesthetics but also ensuring the health and productivity of your cherished plants. Below, we highlight the various ways to get rid of cutworms from your garden.

Identifying Cutworms

Cutworms may be elusive, but with a keen eye and a bit of know-how, you can spot these sneaky culprits wreaking havoc in your garden.

Let’s delve into their appearance and behavior, as well as key signs of a cutworm infestation to watch out for.

Appearance and Behavior: Cutworms typically range in color from gray to brown, and they have smooth, cylindrical bodies that can reach up to an inch or two in length.

They are nocturnal creatures, preferring to feast under the cover of darkness. During the day, you’ll often find them curled up in the soil near the base of plants or hidden beneath debris.

Identifying Cutworms

Signs of Cutworm Infestation:

  1. Seedlings mysteriously severed at the base: One of the telltale signs of a cutworm infestation is finding young seedlings lying on the ground, their stems neatly severed just above the soil line.
  2. Wilting or drooping plants: Cutworms chew through the stems, disrupting the flow of nutrients and water to the plant. As a result, affected plants may exhibit wilting, drooping leaves, or overall stunted growth.
  3. Notched leaves or irregular holes: Cutworms aren’t just interested in stems; they also take a liking to leaves. Look for irregularly shaped notches or holes in the foliage of your plants, which can be a sign of their feeding activity.
  4. Presence of cutworms during nighttime garden inspections: Grab a flashlight and conduct a garden inspection after dark. You might catch these pests in action as they venture out to feast on your plants.

By keeping a close eye on your garden and recognizing these signs, you’ll be better equipped to detect a cutworm infestation early on. This will enable you to take swift action and implement effective strategies to eliminate these unwanted garden guests. So, stay vigilant and be proactive in protecting your plants from the destructive jaws of cutworms.

How to Get Rid of Cutworms: Effective Methods for Elimination

Dealing with cutworms in your garden can be frustrating, but fear not! There are several proven methods to combat these destructive pests and restore harmony to your green haven. Let’s explore a range of effective strategies to get rid of cutworms:

Clean and Prepare Your Garden Properly:

  • Remove garden debris: Cutworms thrive in debris, so clear away any fallen leaves, weeds, or plant residues where they can hide.
  • Till the soil: Before planting, till the soil to disrupt cutworm hiding spots and expose them to predators.

Use Physical Barriers or Deterrents:

  • Collars or barriers: Create protective collars around young plants using materials like cardboard, plastic cups, or aluminum foil to prevent cutworms from reaching the stems.
  • Copper tape or diatomaceous earth: Place copper tape or sprinkle diatomaceous earth around plant bases to create a barrier that cutworms avoid due to its abrasive texture.

Practice Crop Rotation:

  • Rotate crops annually: Cutworms have specific host plants they target. By rotating crops each year, you disrupt their life cycle and reduce the likelihood of infestation.

Attract Natural Predators:

  • Encourage beneficial insects and birds: Plant flowers that attract predator insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. Additionally, provide bird feeders or birdbaths to attract birds that feed on cutworms.

Maintain Proper Garden Hygiene:

  • Regular weeding: Keep your garden weed-free to eliminate additional hiding places and food sources for cutworms.
  • Clean garden tools and equipment: Remove any soil or debris from tools to prevent unintentional transportation of cutworms to other areas.

Handpicking and Manual Removal:

  • Nighttime patrols: Go on a flashlight-wielding mission during the evening hours and manually remove cutworms from your plants. Dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water.

Beneficial Nematodes:

  • Apply nematodes: Beneficial nematodes, such as Steinernema feltiae, can be watered into the soil. They seek out cutworm larvae and release bacteria that kill them.

Diatomaceous Earth:

  • Dust with diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around the base of plants. Its sharp particles pierce the cutworms’ exoskeleton, leading to dehydration and death.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) Insecticide:

  • Use Bt products: Apply Bt insecticides, which contain naturally occurring soil bacteria. When ingested by cutworms, it releases toxins that disrupt their digestive system.
Bonide Captain Jack’s Thuricide BT

Homemade Organic Sprays:

  • Garlic or chili pepper sprays: Create homemade sprays by steeping crushed garlic or chili peppers in water. Strain and spray the mixture on plants to deter cutworms.

Hand Digging:

  • If you spot cutworms in the soil while gardening, carefully dig them up and remove them manually. This can be effective for smaller infestations.

Beer Traps:

  • Set up beer traps by burying shallow containers in the soil and filling them with beer. Cutworms are attracted to the scent, fall into the traps, and drown.

Companion Planting:

  • Plant companion plants that naturally repel cutworms, such as marigolds, calendula, or tansy. The strong scents or natural compounds emitted by these plants can deter cutworms.

Introduce Parasitic Wasps:

  • Some parasitic wasps, such as the braconid wasp, lay eggs inside cutworms. The wasp larvae feed on the cutworms, eventually killing them. Consider attracting these beneficial wasps to your garden.

Floating Row Covers:

  • Use floating row covers made of lightweight fabric or netting to physically block cutworms from accessing your plants. Secure the edges tightly to prevent entry.

Soil Drenches:

  • Apply a soil drench using a natural solution like neem oil or a mixture of water and insecticidal soap. This can help eliminate cutworms in the soil.

Biological Control:

  • Release predatory insects like ground beetles or parasitic nematodes, which feed on cutworms and their eggs, providing a natural form of control.

Iron Phosphate-Based Baits:

  • Iron phosphate baits, specifically designed for caterpillar pests like cutworms, can be spread around your garden. When cutworms consume the bait, it disrupts their digestive system and leads to their demise.

Organic Mulch:

  • Apply organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the base of your plants. This creates a barrier that makes it difficult for cutworms to crawl and reach the stems.

Regular Inspections and Early Intervention:

  • Regularly inspect your garden for signs of cutworm activity. Catching them early allows you to intervene promptly with the appropriate control methods.
Implementing a combination of these methods and staying vigilant will help you effectively control cutworm populations and protect your garden from their destructive tendencies. Stay determined, and soon your garden will thrive without the menace of cutworms.

Preventive Methods: Keeping Cutworms at Bay

Preventing cutworm infestations is a proactive approach that can save you time, effort, and frustration. By implementing the following preventive measures, you can reduce the likelihood of cutworms wreaking havoc in your garden:

Clean and Clear:

Remove garden debris: Cutworms thrive in cluttered areas, so regularly clean and remove fallen leaves, weeds, and other organic matter where they can hide and lay eggs.

Till and Prepare:

  • Till the soil: Before planting, till the soil to disrupt cutworm hiding spots and expose them to natural predators.
  • Weed control: Keep your garden weed-free, as weeds serve as alternate hosts and potential food sources for cutworms.

Use Protective Barriers:

  • Collars or barriers: Create physical barriers around young plants using materials like cardboard, toilet paper rolls, or plastic cups. Sink them into the soil, forming a protective collar that prevents cutworms from reaching the plant stems.

Encourage Beneficial Insects and Birds:

  • Plant diverse flowers: Attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps by planting flowers that provide nectar, pollen, and shelter.
  • Bird-friendly environment: Attract birds to your garden with bird feeders, birdbaths, or native plants that produce seeds and berries, as birds feed on cutworms and help control their population.

Crop Rotation:

  • Rotate crops annually: Cutworms have preferences for specific plants. By rotating crops each season, you disrupt their life cycle and reduce the likelihood of persistent infestations.

Timing and Monitoring:

  • Plant timing: Delay planting until the weather warms up and cutworm populations naturally decline.
  • Regular inspection: Monitor your garden for early signs of cutworm activity, such as notched leaves or cut stems. Promptly remove and dispose of any cutworms you find.

Beneficial Nematodes:

  • Apply beneficial nematodes: These microscopic organisms can be watered into the soil, where they actively seek out and destroy cutworm larvae.

Natural Repellents:

  • Plant repellent herbs: Incorporate plants like garlic, chives, onions, or mint, which emit strong scents that repel cutworms.
  • Neem oil spray: Use organic neem oil spray as a deterrent by applying it to the stems and foliage of vulnerable plants.
By following these preventive methods, you can create an environment that is less appealing to cutworms and reduces their chances of infesting your garden. Remember, prevention is always better than trying to cure an established infestation. So, start implementing these measures early and enjoy a healthier, cutworm-free garden.

Chemical Control Options

While organic and preventive methods should be your first line of defense against cutworms, there may be instances where their population becomes overwhelming or your plants are severely infested.

In such cases, chemical insecticides can be considered as a last resort. However, it’s important to exercise caution and follow safety guidelines when using these products.

Let’s explore the different types of insecticides suitable for cutworm control, along with safety precautions and usage instructions.

Top Pesticide Brands for Cutworm Control:

Monterey Garden Insect Spray:

Monterey Garden Insect Spray contains spinosad, a naturally derived insecticide that targets cutworms and other garden pests. It comes in a ready-to-use spray form and is known for its fast-acting nature.

how to get rid of cutworms
Monterey Garden Insect Ready to Spray Insecticide/Pesticide

Simply apply the spray to the affected plants, ensuring thorough coverage of the foliage and stems. Follow the instructions on the label for proper application and safety precautions.

Sevin Garden Insect Killer:

Sevin Garden Insect Killer is a widely recognized brand that offers effective control against cutworms. It contains carbaryl, a broad-spectrum insecticide.

It comes in various formulations, including ready-to-use sprays, dust, and concentrates. Follow the instructions provided on the product label for appropriate dilution rates and application methods.

how to get rid of cutworms
Sevin Garden Insect Killer

Be sure to adhere to safety guidelines, including wearing protective clothing and avoiding direct contact with the pesticide.

Bonide Caterpillar and Worm Killer

Bonide Caterpillar and Worm Killer is a trusted brand that offers targeted control against cutworms and other caterpillar pests.

It contains the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Bt), a natural soil bacterium that selectively targets and kills the larvae of certain insects, including cutworms.

how to get rid of cutworms
Bonide Captain Jack’s Thuricide BT

This product typically comes in a concentrate or ready-to-use spray form. Follow the instructions on the label for proper mixing ratios and application techniques. As with any pesticide, take necessary safety precautions during application.

How to Get Rid of Cutworms FAQs? 

Can cutworms be beneficial for the garden?

Cutworms are generally considered pests due to their destructive feeding habits. However, there is a rare exception.

Some species of cutworms, like the black cutworm (Agrotis ipsilon), play a minor role in soil aeration and nutrient cycling.

Nonetheless, the damage they cause to plants outweighs any potential benefits. Therefore, in most cases, cutworms are considered detrimental to the garden.

How long does it take to get rid of cutworms?

The time it takes to get rid of cutworms depends on various factors, such as the severity of the infestation, the control methods used, and the diligence of the gardener.

With proper and consistent application of control measures, it is possible to significantly reduce cutworm populations within a few weeks.

However, complete eradication may take longer, as eggs or surviving cutworms in the soil can hatch or emerge over time. Regular monitoring and maintenance are crucial to prevent re-infestation.

Are cutworms harmful to humans or pets?

Cutworms are generally not harmful to humans or pets. They do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases. However, it’s important to note that some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to certain insects, including cutworms.

In rare cases, contact with cutworms may cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction. To minimize any potential risks, it’s advisable to avoid direct contact with cutworms and wash your hands thoroughly after handling them.

Also, it’s advisable to wear gloves when handling cutworms. As for pets, while it’s unlikely that they will eat cutworms due to their unpalatable nature, it’s best to discourage any consumption as a precaution.

What are the signs of a severe cutworm infestation?

A severe cutworm infestation can have noticeable effects on your garden. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Multiple seedlings or plants severed at the base, often appearing wilted or lying on the ground.
  • Widespread damage across various plant species or entire garden beds.
  • Heavy feeding activity leading to stunted growth, leaf notching, or irregular holes in foliage.
  • Continued presence of cutworms during daytime inspections, indicating a large population.
  • Difficulty establishing new plants due to persistent damage by cutworms.
  • High numbers of cutworm larvae visible when digging or disturbing the soil around affected plants.

If you observe these signs, it’s crucial to take immediate action to prevent further damage and control the cutworm population. Implementing a combination of removal techniques, barriers, and other control methods discussed earlier can help address a severe cutworm infestation effectively.


Dealing with cutworms in your garden can be a challenging task, but armed with the right knowledge and strategies, you can successfully combat these voracious pests.

By identifying the signs of cutworm infestation, implementing preventive measures, and utilizing a combination of control methods, you can protect your plants and restore harmony to your garden.

From identifying their appearance and behavior to employing organic solutions such as physical barriers, natural predators, and cultural practices like crop rotation, you have an array of effective options to choose from. It’s important to stay vigilant and regularly inspect your garden, as early detection is key to preventing severe infestations.

While chemical insecticides can be used as a last resort, it’s always advisable to prioritize non-chemical methods and consider their potential impact on the environment and beneficial insects.

Additionally, practicing safety precautions and following usage instructions is crucial to ensure your well-being and minimize any potential risks.

Remember, the journey to getting rid of cutworms requires patience and persistence. It may take time to achieve the desired results, but with dedication and consistent application of control measures, you can significantly reduce cutworm populations and protect your beloved plants. 

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