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Cutworms can be most damaging in vegetable gardens in the spring, when they cut off seedling plant stems just above ground level. Plants in the broccoli family are particularly susceptible, but cutworms will also mow down young peppers, tomatoes, beans, sunflowers and peas.
There are at least three types of caterpillars known as cutworms, and the different types have divergent feeding strategies. Apart from the ground-level feeders, there are cutworms that feed underground on the roots of plants such as carrots. There are also climbing cutworms that feed on leaves, buds, and fruit.
Cutworm caterpillars hide during the day, curled up in a C shape, usually about an inch below the soil surface. The caterpillars pupate in summer and emerge as night-flying moths, which lay eggs for the next generation. Cutworm eggs and larvae overwinter in weedy areas right in garden soil. In warm zones, there may be multiple generations each year. Found throughout North America.
Last updated: 10/24/15
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