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Cutworms on Corn

Several species of cutworms occur in corn fields. As with wireworms, these will not be distinguished from one another, but will be referred to collectively as cutworms.

Cutworm damage to a corn seedling. Photo: Clemson University, CE 28.There is usually some cutworm damage in almost every field every year. A most frequent site of damage is bottom land. The most serious injury results from worms feeding at or just below the soil surface. The worm may feed around the stalk of the plant, girdling it and severing the roots from the rest of the plant. Frequently the worm may be found curled up around the stalk, or nearby in the soil. The worms may move from plant to plant on successive nights. The female moth may lay as many as 1,000 eggs on the ground or foliage in grassy or weedy fields. When these hatch, the larvae feed on roots or foliage of the grasses and weeds. Overwintering takes place in the larval stage, in the soil or under clumps of trash or grass. In the spring, worms attack whatever vegetation is available with voracious appetites. If the available vegetation is newly-planted corn, severe damage may be incurred. The key is not to plant corn on newly broken sod, or on land that was grassy or weedy the previous summer. In this way, cutworm damage can be greatly reduced.

Cutworms may be controlled chemically using a 7-inch band of a recommended insecticide at the base of small plants at the first sign of damage. Since the list of labeled products is constantly changing, and since available products varies from state to state, there will be no mention of specific products. With all insecticides, read and follow label instructions carefully.


Prepared by Donald G. Manley, Extension Entomologist/Professor, Department of Entomology, Soils, and Plant Sciences, Clemson University.


This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. Brand names of pesticides are given as a convenience and are neither an endorsement nor guarantee of the product nor a suggestion that similar products are not effective. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer. Clemson University Cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture and South Carolina Counties. Issued in Furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914.