Variegated Cutworm

Pearly Underwing

Peridroma saucia

Variegated cutworm on a leaf
Variegated cutworm on a leaf. Photo courtesy of Frank Peairs. Licensed under CC BY 3.0.
Unlike other cutworms, variegated cutworms primarily feed on foliage. They attack a wide variety of plants, and can be a major agricultural pest. They hide in the soil at the base of the plant during the day, emerging at night to climb the plant and feed.
Larvae have a mottled brown appearance with yellow or orange dots along the top. They grow up to 1.5" in length.
Variegated cutworm
Variegated cutworm. Photo courtesy of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Licensed under CC BY 3.0.
Variegated cutworm moths are large, with a wingspan of 1.5-2". They have a mottled brown appearance.
Variegated cutworm moth
Variegated cutworm moth. Photo courtesy of Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Variegated cutworms feed on the foliage of plants, reducing photosynthetic area and consequently yield. Heavy infestations may cause complete defoliation. Late instars may also cut plants, causing loss of stand, although this is less common with variegated cutworms compared to other cutworm species.
Insecticides are available for controlling variegated cutworms. Always read and follow all label instructions.
Variegated cutworms overwinter as pupae in the soil. Tilling the field late in the fall destroys large number of pupae, reducing the population the next year.