Cutworms are large, up to 2-inch long, hairless caterpillars, the larvae of night-flying moths. They are a major pest to vegetable gardens, flowers and lawns in the United States. They curl into a "C" shape when disturbed.


Cutworms are grouped by their feeding habits.

Surface Cutworms feed on plants at the surface level at night and are troublesome for lawns and vegetable and flower gardeners. After feeding they burrow into a small hole in the soil where they live during the day. They target new, succulent tissue of emerging or transplanted plants. They chomp through seedling stems at soil level, causing plants to tip over (hence, the name).

Subterranean Cutworms live beneath the ground, feeding on the roots and underground stems of sod, vegetables and grains. This causes plants to wilt and die.

Climbing Cutworms feed on plants above ground. They favor tender leaves, buds and flowers.


Cutworms are found throughout the United States.

Similar or Related Pests

Armyworms and leaf feeding Caterpillars

Cultural Solutions

  • Inspect your plants at night using a light and destroy any you see.
  • Cultivate the soil in summer or fall to destroy larvae.
  • Use cardboard, paper or foil collars around the base of seedlings.