The Winter Cutworm

When winter arrives in Burlington, Massachusetts, you may think that your pest control issues are over until next spring. Most insect pests die out or hibernate during the snowy season, but there’s one pest that can survive the harsh weather to destroy your garden. It’s called the winter cutworm. Here’s more information to help you recognize an infestation and avoid the damage it can cause.

What Is the Winter Cutworm?

The winter cutworm, also called noctua pronuba, is the larval form of the yellow underwing moth. The species originally came from Europe. It made its first North American appearance in Nova Scotia in 1979. Because the adult moths are effective fliers, the species was able to spread rapidly across the northern U.S. The cutworm or caterpillar has a hairless, brown body that can reach up to three inches in length. It has brown dashes running down its back and black markings on its head that resemble brackets. Adult moths have brown fore-wings and bright yellow or orange hind wings. Both the cutworms and adult moths are more active at night.

How Are They Harmful?

The winter cutworm, unlike similar species, is tolerant of cold temperatures and remains active throughout winter. It can cause a great deal of physical and economic damage to agricultural fields, and it may also attack gardens and ornamental plants in residential settings. Cutworms feed at the base of plant stems and occasionally move up into foliage. They have been known to decimate cabbage, carrot, grape, potato, squash, lettuce, tomato, alfalfa, and grass hay crops. In large numbers, they can move across roads or fields like army worms. Damage to plants may seem to appear suddenly or overnight.

How to Get Rid of Winter Cutworms

If you find winter cutworms on your Burlington, Massachusetts, property, you can try to eliminate them yourself. When only a few worms are present on plants, wait until dark, and pick them off by hand. Drown them in a bucket of soapy water to dispose of them. To prevent cutworms from accessing single plants, create plant collars from cardboard or plastic, or place plastic straws or hollow tubes over stems. If the infestation is heavy, or you manage a large garden or agricultural field, consult a professional pest control company for advice.