Only the caterpillars (larvae) are destructive and cause direct damage to the crop.
Tips to identify:
The cutworm adult is a greyish brown moth with greyish brown forewings and whitish silver hind wings. Eggs are laid singly or in small batches on dry plant residues or on lumps of soil.
Larvae are greyish brown, often with a slightly greasy appearance. They grow to about 45 mm long and have 3 dark and 2 light longitudinal bands on their back. They curl up tightly when disturbed. They pupate in the soil.
Cutworms are polyphagous insect pests. They cause damage in the seedling stage of almost all vegetable and fruit crops. Potato, tomato, pepper, chilli, cabbage, peas, beans and cucurbits are particularly vulnerable to this insect. Caterpillars cut the seedlings near the soil surface. The cut plants are sometimes seen to have been dragged into the holes where the leaves are eaten. Young larvae can create shot holes while feeding on tender leaves of seedlings. Older larvae are very destructive to early season planting. They spend the daylight hours below the surface of the soil and become active at night, generally feeding on the stem of seedlings or sometimes the entire seedling, often causing death of the seedlings.
· Collect and destroy caterpillars mechanically as they may be curled near the base of young plants or just a few inches deep in the soil
· Encourage predatory birds to visit the fields by placing birdbaths and feeders near the planting beds
· Force hibernating stages of the cutworms to the soil surface, e.g. by turning the soil or irrigating regularly, to expose them to scorching sunlight and predatory birds
· Place piles of weeds in the crop field as caterpillars hide inside the weeds to remain protected from daylight. Collect and destroy any hidden caterpillars in the morning hours.
· Broadcast Bt. mixed bait (mix 2 g of Bacillus thuringiensis formulation with 1 kg of wheat bran) @ 10 kg per hectare over the surface of new planting beds one week before planting. Cutworms already present in the soil will eat the baits instead of new seedlings.
· Use poison bait (mix 4 g malathion 5% dust with 2 kg of wheat bran or rice husk powder and add ½ kg of jaggery) make a small ladoos and place in the evening on weed free soil.
· Drenching of chlorpyrifos (insecticide) at 4ml per liter of water.
When using a pesticide, always wear protective clothing and follow the instructions on the product label, such as dosage, time of application, and pre-harvest interval.