Lepidoptera: Noctuidae


Cutworm is a general term referring to the caterpillars of some night-flying moths from the family of Noctuidae. The name reflects their larval stage that cut the plant stems like scissors. Some cutworm species are solitary feeders and just one larva is enough to devastate a host plant. Some other species such as tobacco cutworm (Spodoptera liturea) forage in groups and many larvae may feed on a single plant that quickly devastates the host plants.

Life Cycle

Cutworms undergo complete metamorphosis, meaning that they develop through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult (moth). Adult females emerge in spring and lay over 600 eggs during their life span. They deposit their eggs on the foliage of a variety of vegetables or on the soil. After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the foliage or roots of host plants. The grown larvae burrow into the soil and create a small chamber to pupate where it begins developing into adult moths. Most cutworm species have one or two generations per year.

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Cutworms are a common pest of many vegetable crops, fruit trees, and a variety of nonedible plants. Small larvae feed on leaves and create irregular holes, or feed on small roots. Grown larvae eat the seedling stems and usually cut them below ground, at or above the soil surface. Damaged plants can be found withered and lying on the soil.