How to Get Rid of Cutworms on Plants With Natural Methods


Cutworms are every gardener’s nightmare. They can be a significant nuisance in your garden, particularly to transplants and young seedlings. These nocturnal worms can destroy an entire field of crops. Fortunately, there are easy natural ways to get rid of cutworms.

The best way to avoid or control a cutworm infestation is through prevention. Cutworm infestations are often worse in gardens that haven’t been tilled. Female cutworms lay their eggs in dry soil, and the larva rests typically in the soil, overwintering. Cultivating or plowing the soil after winter helps destroy these larvae that eventually become a nuisance.

Controlling and getting rid of cutworms naturally is easy and possible with a bit of know-how. If cutworms attack your seedlings, read on for more information on how to identify, prevent and kill cutworms.

Preventative measures on getting rid of cutworms in plants

Other preventative measures on removing these pesky things in our plants include:

You can add or attach:You can change or do:
Making DIY plant collarsAdjusting your watering schedule
Making use of popsicle sticks, toothpicks, or strawsManual removal of the cutworms
Spreading cornmeal or branIntroducing natural cutworm predators
Using coffee groundsChange or eliminate the use of mulch
Sprinkling diatomaceous earth

Read on for further information on the mentioned measures above.

How to Identify a Cutworm Infestation and rid it from plants using natural methods

The ability to identify the signs of a cutworm infestation is the first step towards managing the problem. You aren’t likely to see cutworms during the day because they feed at night.

Most hobbyists and gardeners don’t know when they have an infestation problem until the damage is evident in the morning. Getting rid of the cutworm population before they can cause any damage will help save your garden. Here is what you should keep an eye out for:

Fresh damage to foliage can be seen on plants from cutworm infestation

If you check on your plants in the morning, and the first thing you notice are chewed spots on foliage, you probably have a cutworm infestation problem. This usually occurs around summer when most of them emerge and make their way up plants to feed on the leaves.

Cutworm droppings can be seen on plants

If you notice what you may suspect to be damage inflicted by cutworms, look for cutworms dropping on the ground around the damaged plants.

Cutworm dropping looks like small black pellet-shaped droppings, and you can often spot them on the leaves of plants.

The droppings help you clearly distinguish cutworm damage from slug damage. Slug droppings tend to be S-shaped and slimy.

The plant’s cut near the base of the stem because of the cutworms

Most cutworm species feed on the ground, where they chew at the stem of a plant and mow it down. Some cutworms may crawl up the plant during summer and damage the plant leaves and stems from the top.

Plants that are damaged or wilting because of the cutworm infestation

Cutworms enjoy devouring the roots of small plants. After a while, you may notice the top of your plants shriveling up or dying from what may not seem like an apparent cause. Check the base of the stem for notches or cuts.

Bare patches in densely planted areas due to cutworms

Often, cutworms may completely mow down a young plant, leaving behind a bare spot. If your garden is densely planted, look out for bald patches. Also, examine the plants around the bare site for cuts or notches around the stem that have chewed into.

Actual cutworms can be seen on the plants and soil

You can easily spot cutworms when you overturn the soil with your hands in the area where the damage is evident. At first glance, cutworms resemble beetle grubs.

Cutworms range in color, including green, pink, and black that either cover their body in either stopped fashion or solid with little discoloration and are often 2 inches in length.

You may find them curled up in a C-shape when they aren’t moving or eating. The most common type of cutworms is black and variegated cutworms. Black cutworms can be identified by the dark spots all over their bodies, while variegated cutworms have a white stripe running along the middle of their back.

How to Naturally Get Rid of Cutworms on your plants

There may be different ways of getting rid of cutworms, spanning from buying specific things to get rid of them, but for now, let us focus on natural ways to rid of these pesky things.

Make DIY plant collars for your plants to get rid of cutworms

Plant collars are a form of protective barrier made using plastic, cardboard, aluminum foil, or another firm material that can be placed at the stems of your plants since cutworms enjoy chewing through plant stems, putting a barrier around the stem limits their access to the stem.

Cut the material into four by four inches squire strips, then wrap them around the plant to form a tube. Push the tube down into the soil for support to keep it in place. Cardboards and plastic cups are convenient for the task because they are biodegradable and durable. This method, however, is time-consuming because you need to create a plant collar for each plant.

Diatomaceous earth is a useful thing for ridding cutworms from plants

Diatomaceous earth acts as a natural pesticide by creating a protective barrier around your plants. It is a white powder derived from rocks. Sprinkle the powder on the soil around your plant in the form of a ring.

If a cutworm crawls over the diatomaceous earth, it will die. The powder is safe for humans to handle and is considered a safe pesticide. Unfortunately, over the wet or rainy season, the rain may wash it away.

Add beneficial nematodes to your garden to rid of cutworms

Beneficial nematodes are tiny organisms that live in the soil and are parasites of harmful insects, including cutworms. In effect, they help control pests in your garden. Beneficial nematodes are available in local garden centers and online suppliers.

Purchase some of them and release them in your garden to naturally get rid of cutworms.

To get rid of cutworms on the plants, use coffee grounds and eggshells

Coffee grounds are a simple and inexpensive way to repel cutworms. Pests such as cutworms don’t like coffee grounds because they irritate their skin, which will keep them away. Sprinkle leftover coffee grounds around your plants to ward off cutworms.

Another effective home waste that can be effective in getting rid of cutworms is crushed eggshells.

Their sharp edges cut into the larvae’s soft body, effectively killing them. Eventually, the eggshells will biodegrade, leaving behind a beneficial calcium residue.

Manual removal is the go to move to rid cutworms from plants

Since cutworms are nocturnal feeders, you will need a flashlight to spot them on foliage and plant stems. Cutworms come in many colors, so you will have to be keen. Pick them off and crush them or plunge them into soapy water. It may not seem effective, but this also destroys the possibility of eggs that each could lay in a season.

Till your garden to get rid of cutworms from plants

You may have cleaned up your garden in the fall, but make sure you do it again in the spring. Digging up the soil exposes overwintering pupae or larvae.

Instead of collecting and disposing of the pests after digging, leave the soil unplanted to allow birds to eat the cutworms you have unearthed.

We actually have this excellent article too on digging up your garden, and what benefits it can bring depending on the time you dug it up. So please do check it out if you are interested!

Get rid of cutworms by cleaning up your garden thoroughly

Properly cleaning up your garden after summer can prevent a lot of the carnage caused by cutworms. Take all the debris out of the garden after the fall harvest. Please put it in a compost pile far from the garden or burn it.

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”

Liberty Hyde Bailey

If there are any larvae or eggs in the garden, compost gives them a favorable place to wait out the winter. If you intend to use the compost waste, have two separate piles that you can alternate between.

Using bamboo stems, skewers, or toothpicks to get rid of cutworms

Another great way to protect your plants from the damage caused by cutworms is to use bolsters. Bolstering the stem prevents cutworms from curling around the stem and eating through it.

Place the toothpicks in a circle around the plant stem or stuck in the ground right next to the stem to act as a barrier.

Use Cornmeal to get rid of cutworms

Cornmeal is a natural pesticide that can be used to kill cutworms. Sprinkle the cornmeal on the soil around the plant and the leaves. If a cutworm feeds on the cornmeal, it will die because it can’t digest it.

Make a molasses treatment to prevent cutworms from attacking your plants

Mix in molasses with wheat bran and sawdust into a thick paste. Use the paste to draw circles around the plants where the cutworms are likely to be. Once they crawl over the mixture, they will get stuck to it and prevent them from ruining the plants.

Delay planting for a few weeks to get rid of cutworms from your plants

Suppose you can delay planting for a few weeks. The first few weeks of early spring encompass a cutworm’s initial eating frenzy. After the first few weeks, the number of cutworm larvae will significantly reduce as they will starve and die.

Introduce cutworm predators to your garden to get rid of cutworms from your plants

First, make your garden hospitable to cutworm predators. Create a friendly environment in your garden for cutworm predators such as moles, toads, fireflies, meadowlarks, and blackbirds which enjoy feeding on cutworms.

You can use feeding boxes and beautifully scented flowers to attract these natural enemies.

Using bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to get rid of cutworms on plants

Bt is a bacterium that produces toxic proteins that are fatal to cutworms and other pests. It naturally occurs in the soil and isn’t harmful to beneficial insects, pets, or wildlife.

It can be purchased from garden stores or online. The packaging comes with specific instructions on how to use it appropriately.

Essentria IC-3 is a specific blend proven effective to get rid of cutworms from plants

For a long time, essential oils have been used as a deterrent for pests such as cutworms.

Essentria IC-3 is a blend of oils made into a very effective spray that directly targets pests, and this basically consists of a blend of peppermint oil, rosemary oil, and geraniol.

The essential oil is safe to use around children, livestock, and pets.

Slow their progress by drying up the soil to get rid of cutworms from plants

Another effective way of getting rid of cutworms is by slowing down their progress. This can be achieved by watering the soil in the morning and digging up the garden walkways to about an inch or so. This technique helps the soil dry up faster, slowing down the progress of any approaching cutworms while still trapping moisture to keep the plants healthy.

Look into leaving a soil border around your garden to get rid of cutworms on plants

Creating a bare soil barrier around your garden is a great way to protect your plants. Leave a bare patch of soil around your garden so that there is no shade.

This technique will make the soil very dry, ensuring any cutworms heading towards the garden endure the risk of being eaten by birds or dying in the sun. To make this method more effective, sprinkle diatomaceous earth along the soil border.

Conclusion on how to get rid of cutworms on plants using Natural Methods

It is disheartening for a gardener to find a trail of ruined plants and watch more than a month’s worth of preparation and hard work going down the drain. Recognizing the problem is the first step towards handling it, and now you know how to identify a cutworm infestation and get rid of them naturally.

The above list may not be conclusive, but it is definitely a good place to get your garden back to a healthy and productive state.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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