Apple-Cutworm

Spotted cutworm (Xestia c-nigrum)

Variegated cutworm (Peridroma saucia)

Pest description and crop damage Cutworms that attack tree fruits include the spotted cutworm and the variegated cutworm. The adults are large moths ranging in color from gray to brown with spots on the wings. These moths are attracted to lights. Larvae are dirty white, reddish, gray or black caterpillars up to 2 inches long. The larvae of these moths feed on buds and leaves, chewing holes in buds and ragged holes out of leaves. They also feed on the growing tips, particularly on small trees or in high-density plantings. On larger trees, most of the feeding is on the lower branches, and may be limited to a few stems or limbs, while other stems are undamaged.

Biology and life history Weeds are the preferred source of food for these larvae, and eggs typically are laid on weeds around the trees. Depending on species, they may overwinter as pupae or larvae in the soil. The larvae spend the day in the soil, then climb up the tree during the day to feed, often following the same path.

Management-cultural control

Control weeds, grasses, and debris in the orchard that provide cover. Encourage natural enemies of cutworms like birds and spiders. Hand-pick cutworm larvae, using a flashlight to find them, if practical. Scratch the soil at the base of plants to find larvae in the daytime. Caterpillars can be trapped by tying plastic wrap tightly around branches and trunk, then applying Tanglefoot or a similar sticky material to the plastic wrap. Remove these in the fall.

Management-chemical control: HOME USE

Stages 3-4: Prepink & tight cluster sprays

  • azadirachtin (neem oil)-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk)-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • Beauveria bassiana-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • carbaryl-Highly toxic to bees.
  • esfenvalerate-Highly toxic to bees.
  • gamma-cyhalothrin-Highly toxic to bees.
  • imidacloprid-Soil drenches may have residual activity in woody plants lasting for 12 or more months. If short-term management is the goal, consider other approaches. Highly toxic to bees.
  • kaolin-Applied as a spray to leaves, stems, and fruit, it acts as a repellant to some insect pests. Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • lambda-cyhalothrin-Highly toxic to bees.
  • permethrin
  • pyrethrins-Highly toxic to bees. Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • spinosad-Highly toxic to bees. Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • zeta-cypermethrin-Highly toxic to bees.

Spring and summer

  • azadirachtin (neem oil)-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • Bacillus thuringiensi var. kurstaki (Btk)-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • Beauveria bassiana-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • carbaryl
  • esfenvalerate
  • gamma-cyhalothrin
  • imidacloprid-Soil drenches may have residual activity in woody plants lasting for 12 or more months. If short-term management is the goal, consider other approaches.
  • insecticidal soap-Some formulations OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • kaolin-Applied as a spray to leaves, stems, and fruit, it acts as a repellant to some insect pests. Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • lambda-cyhalothrin
  • permethrin
  • pyrethrins-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • spinosad-Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use.
  • zeta-cypermethrin

Management-chemical control: COMMERCIAL USE

Stages 3-4: Prepink & tight cluster sprays

Apply thoroughly to lower trunk of tree.

  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel DF, Javelin)-See label for rates. Apply Bt materials two to three times, beginning at prepink, repeating at pink and petal fall. Apply Bt only when temperature exceeds 60°F. Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use. [Group 11] [larvicide]
  • chlorpyrifos (Lorsban 4E) at 4 pints/a in up to 100 gal of water per application. Do not exceed more than 4 pints/a per season as a delayed-dormant application. Do not apply more than one application of chlorpyrifos during the dormant season. Do not apply Lorsban 4E postbloom. [Group 1B]
  • chlorpyrifos (Lorsban 50W) at 3 lb/a in up to 100 gal of water per application. Do not foliar apply postbloom. [Group 1B]
  • indoxacarb (Avaunt ) at 5 to 6 ounces/a in up 100 gal of water per application. Make no more than 3 applications prior to hand-thinning. No hand thinning after the 4th application. Make no more than 4 applications per growing season. Do not apply more than 24 oz/a per growing season. PHI 14 days. [Group 22A]

Spring and summer

  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel DF, Javelin)-See label for rates. Apply Bt materials two to three times, beginning at prepink, repeating at pink and petal fall. Apply Bt only when temperature exceeds 60°F. Some formulations are OMRI-listed for organic use. [Group 11] [larvicide]