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Plantwise Factsheets for Farmers

Cutworms on Tomato

Agrotis spp.; Peridroma saucia

Recognize the problem

Cutworms are greyish, hairless worms that have a waxy appearance. They coil up into a little ring when held in the hand.
They’re usually found where the cut plant is. They hide in the soil during the day and only emerge at night to feed on the young plants, cutting the young plant parts at the base. They sometimes cause wilting of the plant by partially cutting the plant stem.


Fields which are usually weedy, high in organic residue and very wet due to a lot of irrigation are associated with cutworms. Cutworms may hide about the weeds. They are not able to chew away mature, fibrous hardy seedlings. They shy away from sunlight and may not be able to avoid predators when out in the open. Damage is severe in dry conditions.


Non-chemical control:
  • Fields need to be kept free of weeds and thoroughly ploughed at least two weeks before planting.
  • Transplanting can be delayed in order to plant bigger seedlings which will tolerate cutworm damage.
  • Detecting the cutworms early helps to control them and avoid serious damage.
  • Ploughing helps expose the cutworm to natural predators and sunlight which eventually kills them.
  • Small infestations might be controlled by digging out the damaged seedling to find and kill the cutworm.
  • Sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis are also effective. Use a baited trap (flour and water with Bacillus thuringiensis or other pesticide).
  • Ashes deter cutworms when spread on seed beds, around plants or mixed with soil in planting holes.
Chemical control:
  • Use Bifenthrin, Deltamethrin, Indoxacarb, L-Cyhalothrin and Methoxyfenozide to control.

When using a pesticide, always wear protective clothing and follow the instructions on the product label, such as dosage, timing of application, and pre-harvest interval.

The recommendations in this factsheet are relevant to many countries where this pest or problem is present

Authors: This factsheet is based on information written for "The Tomato Farming Handbook", first published by KENGAP Horticulture, 2011.
Kengap Horticulture Ltd, P.O Box 12898-00400 Nairobi, Kenya
tel: +254 722 575544; +254 723 491549 email:;
©CAB International. Published under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 licence.

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