What Pest Is Cutting My Plants at the Base of the Stem?


The cutworm is a particularly wasteful pest that is known for cutting plants, especially seedlings, down at the base of the stem before typically moving on to another plant to do the same without consuming much of the first plant they cut down. The cutworm is mostly nocturnal, and it is usually found either on the ground or on lower parts of plants. They may also be found in shallow burrows under the surface of the soil.

Despite its name, this frustrating garden pest is actually a caterpillar that eventually metamorphoses into one of several moth species. In caterpillar form, cutworms are typically brown with markings that help them camouflage with soil. They are also no more than two inches long, making them even more difficult to spot.

Fighting this pest may require a several-step approach that includes keeping the garden free of weeds during the wintertime and disposing of any foliage the cutworm leaves in its wake. Because chemical pesticides tend to not be effective in preventing cutworm damage, it may be necessary to physically remove them from the garden at night time. Other physical means of prevention, such as the use of cardboard or sticky collars around young plants, may be required to avoid major garden losses due to this pest.