are a troublesome garden pest, knocking down young plants as soon as they begin to stand on their own. Cutworm damage is some of the cruelest you'll see in the garden, although it's hard to determine whether the damage is crueler to the unsuspecting plant or the hard-working gardener.
Cutworms feed at the base of plants, often chewing through a stem causing a plant to drop over and die. If you see plants suddenly dropping in the garden, cutworms could be the problem. They do their dirty work at night, and it's more likely that you'll see their damage than the cutworms themselves.
Despite their name, cutworms are not worms, but the larvae
of certain moths. They are fat, worm-like caterpillars that are a greasy, brownish-gray color. The eggs hatch in late spring, and the cutworms will spend the next several months chowing on plants before they burrow into the soil to prepare for their metamorphosis.
A collar around plants is one easy way to protect from hungry cutworms
. Cut the bottom out of a paper cup and place the paper ring entirely over the seedling, pressing the cup into the ground about an inch for stability. The cutworms will not be able to get past the paper cup wall to feed on the stems. Remove these rings once plants are larger and have thicker stems.