Authors as Published

Eric Day and Alexandra Spring, Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech

Figure 3 cutworm stages
Life stages of Cutworms


Many species. Cutworms are dull gray, brown, or black, and may be striped or spotted. They are stout, soft-bodied and smooth, and up to 1 and 1/4 inches long. They curl up tightly when disturbed.

Common Host Plant(s)

Tomato, pepper, cabbage, peas, beans, and squash.

Figure 1 Bronzed Cutworm
Bronzed Cutworm. David Cappaert, Michigan State University,
Figure 2 Black Cutworm
Black cutworm. W.M. Hantsbarger,


Cut off plants above, at, or below soil surface. Some cutworms feed on leaves, buds, or fruits; others feed on the underground portions of plants. Particularly destructive to early season plantings.


Throughout United States.

Cultural Control

Place a stiff 3-inch cardboard collar around the stems; allow it to extend about 1 inch into the soil and protrude 2 inches above the soil; clear the stem by about 1/2 inch. Till garden so that weedy growth is not present in the spring.

Organic/Biological Control

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt is sold under various trade names and formulations) will kill cutworms and is safe. Worms get sick the first day and die later.

Chemical Control

If cultural control fails, follow the label instructions and precautions for pre-planting treatment of cutworm for 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.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

April 25, 2011

Available As

Other resources in:

Other resources from: