Cutworms are the larval form of dozens of different species of small brown or tan, banded moths. Depending on the species, cutworms damage plants in several ways:
1.) Surface cutworms chew plants just above or just below the soil level, typically eating just enough of the stem to make the plant topple over, but occasionally dragging plants or plant parts down into their borrows.
2.) Climbing cutworms climb the stems of herbaceous plants, shrubs, vines and trees, feeding on buds, stems, leaves and fruits.
3.) Army cutworms occur in great numbers and, after consuming the vegetation in one area, migrate by the thousands onto adjacent land. Army cutworms feed mainly from the tops of plants, but in large enough numbers, will consume entire plants.
4.) Subterranean cutworms remain in the soil and feed on roots and the underground parts of stems.
The adults of all cutworm species are night-flying moths with wing-spans from 1-1/2 to 3 inches. Only the larvae damage plants: adult moths feed off the nectar of wild and cultivated flowers. Full-grown larvae are 1-2 inches long, soft, plump, hairless caterpillars whose color and markings vary from dingy white to tan, brown, charcoal gray or black, depending on species. A disturbed cutworm will curl up into a tight ball.
Prevention and non-chemical control
To determine if cutworms are present, look for signs of freshly cut plants. Take a flashlight at night to search the base of the plant and the top layer of soil for cutworms. Handpick any cutworms you find and squash them or drown them in a bucket of soapy water.
Since adult female moths lay their eggs during the fall, removing weeds and mowing the grass close to the ground will aid in prevention of cutworm infestation.
A protective collar made of plastic, sturdy cardboard, cut-up drink bottles, milk cartons, toilet paper rolls, etc., will protect transplants against cutworms. Place the collar around the plant stem, making sure it extends at least an inch down into the soil and two inches above soil level
Feel free to continue the conversation and add your own discoveries on pest control by leaving a comment. If you have had great success with a particular organic method, let us know what worked for you! Thanks!
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: The information above was gleaned from the UNH Cooperative Extension Website a GREAT resource!