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Pests & Diseases > Cutworm

Cause

Cutworms are brownish grey grubs (larve) 2-3 cm long hatched from eggs that the parent moth has laid in the soil. 

Cutworms incubate during winter, they become active and begin feeding as the weather warms in spring. They remain hidden in the soil and feed at night. The cutworm gnaws off seedlings just above ground level. They drag the top of the seedling underground to feed, so it is unusual to see the cut off part of the seedling lying around. They will move to another tube when food supply is scarce. 

Cutworms affect the more established yet tender seedling stems, so do not confuse them with “damping off” which affects the younger, newly germinated seedlings. 

Prevention

Check daily. Watch your seedlings for the insects themselves. 

Cure

Chemical - ‘Pyrethrum’ watered into the soil kills them, or tomato dusting powder 

Control by hand - you can check at night with a torch and collect them – you may see their tunnels into the potting mix. 

Drowning - a large container that can fit your whole box or a smaller one and put a few tubes in at a time. Submerge the tubes completely for about 5 mins only then check the top of the tubes for cutworms. Pick them out and feed them to your chooks or give them a good squash. Remove tubes from water and repeat for the rest of your seedlings in case they are hiding in others and come back. 

Notice in the right corner of the tube a drowned cut worm that has crawled to the surface of the tube. Do NOT do this too often or soak them longer than 5 minutes, as it will leach the nutrients form the soil and is unnecessary. 

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