For many, seed isn’t in the ground yet, but cutworms may be in the soil ready for when it does. So the time to start scouting for cutworms is now! Even if it is too wet to seed, consider checking volunteer plants for cutworms or feeding damage. General cutworm monitoring protocols can be found on the Monitoring Protocols page.
While they may be related and share many similarities, cutworms are not all the same, nor cause the same kind of damage. For example, the armyworm (Mythimna unipuncta) is a climbing cutworm and feeds on leaves. In contrast, young pale western cutworms (Agrotis orthogonia) feed on the surface of newly-emerging shoots and furled leaves of young plants causing small holes and older larvae sever plants just below the soil surface and occasionally pull and eat severed plants underground. In addition, there is likely more than one cutworm species present in your field.
A few of the important cutworms we’ve highlighted in the past include army, darksided, dingy, glassy, pale western and redbacked cutworms. There is a lot more information about cutworm lifecycle, the damage they cause, and management options in the recent Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies. For even more information on cutworms (and many other pests) including information about their natural enemies, check out Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada.