Cutworms

What Do You Call It When Worms Take Over The World?…. Global Worming!

This has been an extremely busy week with delivering my plants to the Monashee Co-Op, preparing for the first Lumby and District Public Market and finishing some Mothers Day goodies as well as working in my yard. I was dismayed to  find so many cutworms in my perennial beds, many more than I am used to seeing.  Cutworms are the offspring of the Miller Moth and others which will lay their eggs on grasses and weeds in the fall and over winter or are laid in the early spring then hatch into this destructive pest that feed on new transplants of many plant plants like asparagus, beans, cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, lettuce, peas, potatoes, tomatoes and sunflowers to mention most of what you plant in the garden.  Tomato, Peppers and Celery should be monitored until you harvest.  The damage in my perennial beds seems minor but the worms are yet small but they will grow and devour until they dig down deeper into the soil and transform back into the moth.  This they can do several times in the year, having an incubation period of 2 to 14 days depending on the species and the temperature this allows for up to 3 or 4 generations a year.  The summer hatching will climb up to feast on the top growth of your plants, others will burrow deeper to feast on roots. There are many species of the Cutworm but the one identifying aspect is that they curl into a C shape when disturbed, they are smooth skinned and hairless as well as they only feed at night and hide during the day. They can be many colours and range from 1eighth of an inch to 2 inches again depending on the variety.  This curling trait is how they devour and kill tender seedlings and how they get their name as they tend to cut new seedlings off at ground level.  It is best to get a handle on them while they are small as most damage will occur in early spring after they hatch and while they are growing.  They do have natural predators like Meadow Larks, Toads, Moles and Shrews, many of these you do not want in your garden.  There are many things you can do to prevent and rid your garden of these pests.  First is to be sure to rid your garden of plant refuse to remove all egg nesting sites as some of the moths can lay up to 600 eggs in a row.  Weed and grass removal  is very important as well, tilling deeply in fall and spring will expose the young worms to predators and death by exposure itself.  Chickens will dig up and devour them and fertilize as well but that is not the easiest option for many.    I use Diatomaceous Earth in my soil when I am transplanting my seedlings for market and this is both effective and inexpensive,  it is safe when applied around the base of the plant but should not be sprinkled on the plant as it will work the same on pollinators and bees if they should come in contact with it, otherwise it is safe around any and all things we hold sacred. Other options include hand picking the beasts or placing cones of cardboard such as toilet paper rolls, plastic  cut from soda bottles or tin foil placed about an inch deep around your transplants.  A buffer of 3 to 4 feet of soil that will remain dry as a perimeter around your garden can help as well as planting Tansy among your plants.  Putting toothpick on either side of your seedling can help as the Cutworm will not be able to curl around this additional diameter.  You can also use crushed eggs shells around your plants which will help with slugs as well as add some calcium to the soil over time or wood ashes and chicken manure seem to be a repellent as well.  Bacillus Thuringiensis sold as BT is also extremely affective, this is a natural soil born bacteria widely used since the 1950’s containing a spore and protein crystal that is toxic to many pest like cabbage worm, tent caterpillars, potato beetles and Mosquitoes ( up to 95 to 100 percent within 24 hours) and many other leaf eating pest.  It is harmless to birds, fish and mammals.  This I am going to try in my perennial beds as I happen to have some.  Look forward to seeing you at the greenhouse soon and at the market on Saturday.  Rain or Shine.  Please call before coming out to the greenhouse to arrange a convenient time.  I am nearly always here but I may be out and would not have you drive out for no reason. 

Thanks and Happy Gardening!

Samantha Nason
BS Ranch & Greenhouses
250 547 6567 • samanthanason@hotmail.com

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