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15 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Cutworms

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17 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Cutworms

If you notice fat, grayish-brown, greasy-looking worm-like pests at the base of your tomatoes or other plants, those might be cutworms. Plants may also appear to have been chopped off at the base and ruined.

This is the evening or nighttime damage caused by cutworms feeding on your plants. As a result, you need to get rid of them before any further damage is done.

Here’s how to get rid of cutworms naturally:

1. Manual Removal

Most species of cutworms are nocturnal feeders, so a flashlight is needed to find them on the roots and foliage of plants.

They vary in colors and patterns, so they may also be difficult to identify. However, most usually appear as small brown, gray, green, or even black stout caterpillars.

Pick them off and squish them, or feed them to the birds. Alternatively, drop the cutworms in a bucket of soapy water to suffocate and kill them.

2. Coffee Grounds

An inexpensive home remedy to repel cutter worms is to use leftover coffee grounds to sprinkle around your plants.

Coffee grounds will not kill cutworms; however, the critters don’t like the stuff.

3. Beneficial Nematodes

Another cutworm management tip is to utilize beneficial nematodes. These microscopic organisms live in the soil and act as parasites on harmful insects, helping to control the pests.

You can purchase these from online suppliers or local garden centers and reintroduce them into garden soil to keep cutworms away.

4. Eggshells

Crushed eggshells are useful in the garden in a number of ways.

It will stop cutworms, as the sharp edges will damage their soft bodies and kill them. The eggshells will then biodegrade, leaving a beneficial residue of calcium.

5. Cutworm Collars

Cut pieces of cardboard and shape them to form collars. Now place the collars around the base of each plant to prevent cutworms from attacking the plants.

However, be sure to push the collars down well into the soil to form a secure barrier. You can also use toilet paper roll insets to make the collars.

6. Pest-Repelling Plants

These critters feed on roots, stems, leaves, buds, and even fruits. However, there are some plants and scents that they do not like.

Plants that repel cutworms include tansy, sage, and thyme. Borage also keeps away tomato worms.

7. Till the Soil

This is a simple method to control cutworms organically.

Breaking up the soil and digging deep before spring planting will expose overwintering larvae.

Digging around existing plants will also evict other pests from their hiding places. Collect and dispose of the pests.

Another good idea is to leave the area for a while and let the birds do the work for you.

8. Bamboo Skewers

Poke these directly into the ground around plants to keep cutworms off your plants. It will prevent the plant worms from curling around the stems, chewing them, and ruining them.

Form the skewers in a circle around the plants in a sort of stockade against pest attacks.

9. Clean Up

A good clean-up of the garden at the end of the summer should clear away a lot of debris where cutworm moths have laid eggs. Dispose of the debris well away from the planting area to avoid a new infestation.

At this point, till the soil again to expose any larvae left behind.

10. Toothpicks

Another easy DIY remedy to get rid of cutworms in the vegetable garden is using toothpicks.

You can use these, like bamboo skewers, around plants to corral them against the larvae chewing the bases and stalks.

11. Cornmeal

You can use cornmeal as a natural remedy to deal with plant-eating worms and pests.

The staple is indigestible to many pests, including cutworms. A little of this product sprinkled near plants is effective for treating the problem.

Cornmeal will kill the cutworms that overeat it.

12. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

This is a slow but effective organic treatment for black cutworms and army cutworms in your yard, among other pests.

The sharp edges of DE are abrasive and will cut into the soft bodies of cutworm caterpillars, causing dehydration that leads to death.

Therefore, sprinkle some around plants, in the grass, and on the lawn. Additionally, food-grade diatomaceous earth is excellent for getting rid of house insects.

13. Natural Predators

Nature may bring unwanted insects, but she is also always ready to give the gardener a helping hand in eliminating them. Birds are particularly helpful in feeding on bad bugs, grubs, and garden worms.

Parasitic wasps are also useful. These parasitize the cutter worm and lay eggs inside it. As the eggs break and develop into larvae, they will eat the host.

Some beetles, spiders, frogs, and toads also eat cutworms. Additionally, bats are helpful in eliminating night-flying adult moths, thus preventing more eggs from being laid.

14. Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.t.)

This is a naturally occurring bacterium found in the soil that produces proteins that are toxic and fatal to cutworms and other pests. However, Bt is not toxic to most beneficial insects, wildlife, or pets.

Bacillus Thuringiensis is available online or at garden stores. Use it according to the specific instructions that come with the package.

15. Essentria IC-3

Essential oils have long been known as deterrents for insect pest control. Essentria IC-3, a commercial product, goes further and contains a blend of oils in spray form to hit pest targets directly.

The knock-down reaction is quick, and death follows rapidly. Although this product is effective against many pests, it is safe to use where there are children, pets, or livestock nearby.

Diluted and sprayed, you can use it indoors and outside on a wide variety of insect pests, including cut worms and adult moths.

This spray for cutworms is a unique blend of rosemary oil, peppermint oil, and geraniol.

16. Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is great for killing soft-bodied pests in your garden. Its abrasive texture will scratch their soft bodies, which will cause dehydration, leading to death.

To use Epsom salt for cutworms, sprinkle some around the base of your plants. This will prevent them from crossing over.

17. Spinosad

Spinosad, a natural pesticide, is effective against many different types of harmful garden insects. This treatment is available in ready-to-use spray form.

Spinosad insecticide kills cutworms. It acts by paralyzing the larvae, preventing feeding, and breaking the life cycle of the pests.

But it has the disadvantage of being toxic to honeybees, one of nature’s essential pollinators. If, however, it is sprayed in the evening and allowed to dry at times when bees are inactive, the product can be applied safely and effectively.


It is so disheartening for a gardener to find plants ruined, but identifying the cause is the first step in eliminating the problem.

Checking at night for a cutworm infestation and applying one or more of the natural methods above should help avoid future attacks on plants.

Picture via Flickr

Sasha Brown

Sasha Brown is a blogger and lover of all things natural.

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