Cutworms get their name from their eating habit which involves chewing through the stems of lawns and plants, with the result being that the rest of the plant or blade of grass falls over.
Cutworm is another of many caterpillar varieties which can damage both lawns and gardens, other caterpillar pests include sod webworm and armyworm. Like these other lawn pests, Cutworms are nocturnal, feeding only at night, and hiding in the thatch layer and upper topsoil during the day.
Cutworms can be very difficult to identify because they are named after their behaviour, and not on a single caterpillar type, as such they can often look quite different from each other. In most cases they will be between 2-5 cm in length, and can range from a bronze colour to brown, to green and sometimes have a variegated pattern.
Apart from being differentiated from other caterpillars by the way they cut through stems of plants and lawns, they are also recognisable by the way they curl up when touched with a hand or other implement such as a stick. Cutworms can be from many different moth types but belong in the family Noctuidae.
Cutworm can be found by applying a bucketful of very soapy water over a small area of lawn which has been damaged. Monitor the lawn for the next 10 minutes, and check for these little pests to emerge.
The next method involves going out onto the turf at night time with a torch, and then getting down low to the ground and looking for these caterpillars when they are actively feeding.
Once a caterpillar is found, touch one with a stick, and if it curls up, it's cutworm, if it doesn't curl, then it may be another lawn grub caterpillar.
Cutworm is killed and controlled by the same methods as other cater[pillars in lawns, A special insecticide is purchased from the gardening store or nursery and applied to the lawn just prior to night-time arriving. Once the night falls, the cutworms will come out and feed on the grass and ingest the poison at the same time.
If cutworms have migrated into surrounding garden beds and have begun attacking and destroying plants, then the same insecticide treatments can usually be applied. A more environmentally friendly measure is to surround the base of plants with a protective barrier.
The barrier is usually a tube of some sort which surrounds the stem of the plant, this can be toilet paper rolls, kitchen paper rolls or old yogurt containers with the base cut off.