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Avatar for beantheredonethat
Jun 14, 2020 12:36 PM CST
Thread OP

I live in southwestern Ontario. My mother and I planted a vegetable garden last year and we had no problems.

This year, I planted some bok choy, collard and kale seedlings that I started myself indoors, and the next morning they were gone. Maybe a few leafless stems sticking up, but in some of the plant sites, there was absolutely nothing there, and also the odd cut off leaf laying wilted on the ground.

(Fingers crossed, so far) they have not touched onion, cucumber, green bean, tomato (except for one that appeared to have a frond cut off, but nothing after that) bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini or squash seedlings/young plants (i.e. no fruit on anything yet)

About a week ago I planted beet and cauliflower seedlings in the garden, they were fine until this morning we went out there and everything is either gone, maybe 2 or 3 cut off leaves lying there on the ground, except for 1 cauliflower seedling left. My mother dug around one of the plant sites and found the cut off cauliflower stem just under the soil line.

Cutworms? Rabbits? Both? Something else?

I thought the distinguishing factor was "edible leaves" but some kohlrabi that I direct sowed more than 2 weeks ago is still there as is the arugula. And it's not "brassica" because....beets.
Jun 15, 2020 5:03 AM CST

Definetely cutworms, in the specific Noctuid caterpillars. I've lost far too many seedlings to them, literally overnight, not to mention an untold number of basil plants.

Right now your only chance at control is to use Bacillus thuringensis kurstaaki (BTK) or a soil insecticide like Bifenthrin. Noctuid caterpillars are not just very mobile but many are adept at hiding under ground during the day so they are extremely hard to catch.
I've used all commercially available BT strains for a few years and they are not merely extremely effective against their targets but 100% safe for beneficial insects, birds, pets, children and all other more or less hamrless critters.

Know however that during the next growth season you'll have to act early: the best control against Cutworms is to nip the infestation at the bud. As soon as the ground thaws but nights are still chilly, plow the ground over with a spade or a heavy hoe so to freeze the little buggers to death.
Avatar for beantheredonethat
Jun 19, 2020 7:08 PM CST
Thread OP


I prefer not to use chemicals so it's good to know there is a natural product that's effective plus something non-chemical (digging) we can do next year.
Avatar for beantheredonethat
Jun 10, 2021 2:42 PM CST
Thread OP

I took your advice and spaded the ground early this spring, and there were a few nights of below-freezing temps after that. When digging, I did find a caterpillar that looked just like the pics of noctuid caterpillars I found online.

When I planted the seedlings, toothpicks inserted next to the stem. Dusted with diatomaceous earth as well. Did not use BTK. So far, the seedlings have been out there about 3 weeks and no cutworms. Thumbs up
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