Learn more about COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. Daily case numbers and information for businesses and workers.

The Re-Open Saskatchewan plan was released on April 23rd.

Google Translate Disclaimer

A number of pages on the Government of Saskatchewan's website have been professionally translated in French. These translations are identified by a yellow text box that resembles the link below and can be found in the right hand rail of the page. The home page for French-language content on this site can be found at:

Renseignements en Français

Where an official translation is not available, Google™ Translate can be used. Google™ Translate is a free online language translation service that can translate text and web pages into different languages. Translations are made available to increase access to Government of Saskatchewan content for populations whose first language is not English.

The results of software-based translation do not approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator. The translation should not be considered exact, and may include incorrect or offensive language Government of Saskatchewan does not warrant the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of any information translated by this system. Some files or items cannot be translated, including graphs, photos, and other file formats such as portable document formats (PDFs).

Any person or entities that rely on information obtained from the system does so at his or her own risk. Government of Saskatchewan is not responsible for any damage or issues that may possibly result from using translated website content. If you have any questions about Google™ Translate, please visit: Google™ Translate FAQs.

Early-Season Scouting of Cutworms

By Sara Tetland, AAg, Crops Extension Specialist, Moose Jaw

Redbacked cutworm
Redbacked – photo John Gavloski

Cutworms are early-season pests that can affect a variety of crops in Western Canada. There are about 20 different species of cutworm pests in Canada, but, fortunately, only a few are capable of causing economic damage in Saskatchewan.

Cutworm is the common name given to the larvae stage of numerous moth species. Only the larvae stage of these species cause damage to crops, with either underground, above-ground or climbing feeding behaviours.

Signs of cutworms in the field can include notches or holes in foliage; plants that are wilting, falling over, or completely clipped off; and thin or bare patches. It is important to confirm that the symptoms are caused by cutworms and not by poor emergence or other issues such as damping-off disease, which may cause bare patches or wilting.

When scouting, it is also important to identify which species of cutworm is in your crop. Cutworms have diverse, species-dependent habitats and feeding behaviours that can affect your crop in a variety of ways. The lifecycle timing and length also varies between species, with some larval earlier or later in the growing season than others.

Scouting for cutworms should be done regularly starting early in the spring after plant emergence until approximately mid-July. Dingy and army cutworms both overwinter as larvae and cause most of their damage earlier in the season, whereas pale western and red-backed cutworms overwinter as eggs and need to advance to the larvae stage to cause crop damage. Cutworms tend to cause damage at hilltops, south-facing slopes and drier parts of the field, but they may be found in other areas, as well.

To scout, carefully search the top one to two inches of soil around the base of damaged plants. Cutworms will move from damaged plants to healthy plants to continue feeding, so also search for them at the base of healthy plants within or around the outside of the affected patches. The larvae tend to feed during the night and stay underground during the day. Therefore, even if the pest is not found on plants that show aboveground feeding symptoms, cutworms may be found on or beneath the soil surface. Sample multiple sites, a square meter around affected plants. The threshold is typically four to five larvae per square meter, but varies by species and crop type. There are various management practices that can be used to control cutworms. Natural enemies of cutworms, including parasitoids and predatory insects, are particularly important for ending multiple year outbreaks. Refer to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies for more information.

Cultural control options vary depending on the species of cutworm present. Weed-free, uncultivated fields in late summer are less attractive for egg laying for overwintering. Seeding later in the spring or cultivating the soil and keeping it black before seeding can starve cutworms that overwinter; however, the risk of soil erosion has to be taken into account when considering this control option.

If the level of cutworms is above the economic threshold for a specific crop, there are foliar insecticides available to control the pest. Apply pesticides in the late evening when larvae begin feeding so that they come in contact with the spray. For more information on insecticides available for specific crops, please refer to the 2020 Guide to Crop Protection.

We need your feedback to improve saskatchewan.ca. Help us improve