My weekend started with a BOLO: Be On the Look Out sent by my predecessor, retired County Agent Bill Thomas.

He reported finding a smorgasbord of caterpillars around his homestead. A mix of loopers, hornworms, and beet armyworm, and a few corn earworms.

I set out into the area farm fields looking around to see if I could get a jumpstart on the phone calls.

I could find a few earworms, and we are also seeing some armyworms in sorghum fields, but my main concern, and I suspect that something we will be hearing more about very soon, was finding threshold levels of granulate cutworms (cutworm) in several peanut fields.

Our most recent experience with these was in 2011 if memory serves me correctly. That was the season when I heard reports of farmers making three sprays trying to control this pest. Of course it wasn’t until they made accurate identification and selected the appropriate chemical that they achieved control.

My experiences with cutworms echoed those described by Richard Sprenkel which can be found here: Identification and Monitoring of Insect Pests in Peanut.

“There are several species of cutworms that are capable of causing damage to peanut. However, one of the most common species is the granulate cutworm, Agrotis subterranea. Larvae of the granulate cutworm are smooth, plump worms that vary from gray to light brown. When disturbed, the larvae curl into a tight C-shape. Fully grown larvae are up to 1 1/2 inches in length.

Although cutworm damage in a field may be conspicuous, the cutworms themselves may not be readily evident. This is because the cutworm feeds mainly at night and on cloudy days. During the day, cutworms may be found on or just beneath the soil surface or under trash.

Cutworms cause several types of damage to peanut. Early in the season, they can cause serious damage by feeding on the stems of young plants near the soil surface causing the plants to fall over. Later in the season, cutworms can climb the plants and feed on foliage. Cutworms have the distinction of consuming more foliage per larva than any of the other foliage-feeding worms on peanut. However, high numbers of cutworms per foot of row do not always result in extensive foliage loss. This is because cutworms frequently feed on organic residue on the soil surface leaving the foliage relatively untouched.”