Cutworms in Turf


Cutworms are caterpillars that feed on the stems and leaves of young plants and often cut them off near the soil line, hence their common name. Although there are many important species of cutworms, the black, granulate, and variegated cutworms are the ones most commonly encountered on North Carolina turfgrass. Many cutworms prefer wilted plant material and sever the plants sometime prior to feeding. Cutworms in turf often burrow in the thatch or ground. At night they emerge and chew stems and blades near the soil. The damage may appear as circular spots of dead grass, finger-sized brown crescents, or ball marks on a golf green. Bronzed cutworms are active in spring and fall and may strip large areas of turf at ground level.

Cultural Control

Kentucky bluegrass is a non-preferred host for black cutworm, compared to creeping bentgrass and perennial rye, and may reduce infestation. This may be used in mixed turf or in border areas. The nematode Steinernema carpocapsae is moderately effective against black cutworm. Follow label instructions exactly. Bacillus thuringiensis products work best while larvae are young. Collection and removal of clippings from the area may be helpful.

Chemical Control

For chemical control, liquid formulations should be used, applied as late in the day as possible, and not watered in for at least 24 hours. Treating a 20-30 feet buffer zone around greens and tees will reduce migration from outlying areas. Preceed chemical treatments with mowing 24 hours prior to treatment. Apply chemicals in the evening for optimal night time contact.

Insecticide and Formulation

Amount per 1,000 sq ft

Precaution and Remarks

acephate* (Orthene T, T&O) 1.2 to 2.4 oz Commercial and residential turf only.
azadirachtin* (Neemix, Turplex) See label
bifenthrin* (Menace, Talstar, others) F, GC; G form also available 0.18 to 0.25 fl oz Use GC formulation for golf courses.
Bt products, various labels See label
carbaryl* (Sevin) 80 WSP and baits 0.75 to 1.5 oz Treat in late afternoon. Apply in adequate water for good coverage but do not flood or water in. Do not cut grass for 1 to 3 days after treatment.
chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn) 0.046 to 0.092 fl oz
chlorpyrifos* (Dursban) 4 E, 2 ES, 50 WP, Pro See label For use on golf courses; check new label.
chlothianidin (Arena) .5G 1.4 to 1.8 lb Cutworms only.
chlothianidin (Arena) 50 WDG 0.2 to 0.3 oz Cutworms only.
chlothianidin + bifenthrin (Aloft) See label
cyfluthrin* (Tempo 2) 0.143 fl oz Home lawns only.
deltamethrin (Deltagard) G 2 to 3 lb/1,000 ft
entomogenous nematodes* See label Read and follow special application instructions. Effective only against small cutworms.
halofenozide* (Mach 2) 2 SC 1.5 fl oz Can be used two times per season at these rates.
halofenozide* (Mach 2) 1.5 G 1 lb Can be used two times per season at these rates.
imidacloprid + bifenthrin (Allectus, Atera) See label Rate varies with pest. Different formulations for different sites.
indoxacarb (Provaunt) SC 0.0625 to 0.25 fl oz Not labeled for use on sod farms.
lambda-cyhalothrin* (Battle, Scimitar, Cyonara) See label Do not make applications within 20 feet of any body of water. No reentry until spray has dried.
spinosad A or D (Conserve) SC 0.25 to 1.25 fl oz Rate varies with size and species.
trichlorfon (Dylox, Proxol) 80 SP 1.5 to 3 oz
Dinotefuran (Zylam) 20SG 1 oz per 1000 sf

Written By

Photo of Dr. Rick BrandenburgDr. Rick BrandenburgExtension Specialist (Peanuts & Turf) & Department Extension Leader (919) 515-8876 rick_brandenburg@ncsu.eduEntomology and Plant Pathology - NC State UniversityPhoto of Dr. Terri BilleisenDr. Terri BilleisenExtension Associate tlhoctor@ncsu.eduEntomology and Plant Pathology - NC State University
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