Cut Worms and Army Worms
(Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

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Severe pests of seedlings in nurseries and in the field are the larvae of Noctuidae, called cutworms or army worms due to their voracious appetite. The naked, grey, blackish or colourful larvae have five or sometimes three pairs of abdominal prolegs. The phytophagous caterpillars live in the upper layer of the soil during the day. The caterpillars emerge from the soil during the night and feed on their host. Typically, a young plant is neatly cut off right above the soil but partial or complete defoliation or bending of the seedling is also common. Noctuidae pupate in the soil, hence Lepidoptera pupae found in the soil of gardens quite likely belong to this family. Many species are common and serious pests of agricultural and horticultural significance. The cutworms feed on foliage, but also bore fruits and other parts of plants such as tomatoes, corn, rice, citrus, etc. Common pests are Agrotis, Helicoverpa, Spodoptera, Mythimna and many more.

If a cutworm problem is severe or persists in a nursery, the seedlings have to be protected by the application of a suitable insecticide.

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Michael F. Schneider, 1999