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Black Cutworms Causing Economic Damage in Some Areas

June 7, 2002
Within the past week and a half, I received several reports of damage caused by black cutworms. Some of the cutting has occurred above ground, but observers have indicated that cutting below ground is common. All of these reports arrived in my office at about the same time, so I strongly encourage people to scout diligently for cutworms and their damage right now. Although black cutworm damage may not be widespread, it's important to locate areas in which the larvae survived to begin feeding on corn seedlings.

Don Brucker with Boehle Consulting Services in Melvin found cutworm damage in four fields in Ford and Livingston counties on June 3. The damage ranged from 3 to 12 percent cutting. Doug Kirkbride with M & J Fertilizer in Pana reported that many acres in his area (Christian, Fayette, Montgomery, and Shelby counties) have required "rescue" treatments to prevent further cutworm damage. Much of the damage has occurred below ground.

With plenty of subsurface soil moisture, black cutworm larvae may be content to feed below ground. In fact, if the topsoil becomes dry and crusted or is compacted, the cutworms' activity may occur completely underground, challenging efforts to obtain good results from "rescue" treatments (listed in Table 1). Under such conditions, the higher recommended rates of insecticides should be considered, and increasing the gallons of water might help. We also have recommended that rotary hoeing might break up the soil surface and encourage cutworms to be more active near or on the soil surface.

Keep us posted about cutworm activity in your area. It's been a while since we've had a full-fledged black cutworm outbreak, and we certainly don't want to let anything slip by us. Hopefully the reports of cutworm damage will remain regional.--Kevin Steffey

Author: Kevin Steffey

The Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin
Executive Editor: Kevin Steffey, Extension Entomologist

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