The Q&A Archives: Cutworms Or Not?

Question: Hi,
I transplanted 12 broccoli seedlings 5 days ago--they survived a stormy rain that lasted all day two days after the transplant, but didn't make it to an attack by a cutworm (collars around the seedlings didn't help). Today I discovered that only three of the 12 remained unharmed, but the others were left leafless. One of the articles on this site said that cutworms cut through the stem and topple the seedling over, but there was no tops left near my broccoli. Could it be something else? Also, some of the attacked seedlings still have a few little leaves left in the center of the stems--will they rebound? Or they'll wither eventually? Thank you for your help!

Answer: It sounds like cutworms. Known for "felling" plants, they will also eat leaves and flowers. They are usually about 1/2 inch long and grayish. They don't move far and you can usually find them by digging around in the soil at the base of the plant with your finger to a depth of about 1 inch. (Protective collars should also be at least one inch deep.) Another way to trap the culprits is to lay something around the plants, such as boards. The cutworms will hide under the boards during the day and you can squish them. It's hard to say if the plants will survive, but if there is some new, fresh growth it's worth the try. Good luck!

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