Black Cutworm Moths Captured Throughout Midwest

April 24, 2015
ICM News

By Erin Hodgson, Department of Entomology, Adam Sisson, Integrated Pest Management, and Laura Jesse, Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic.

Black cutworm moths (Photo 1) do not overwinter in Iowa and must migrate north annually. Black cutworm moths have been collected in Iowa since the beginning of April 2015. Seeing significant moth captures in early and mid-April is unusual and could indicate a more frequent incidence of vegetative crop injury compared to other years. There have been reports of black cutworm moth trap catches from other states besides Iowa, including Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky. In some places, such as Indiana, peak flights are being reported. A peak flight is a specific number of moths caught in a trap that signals when to begin adding up temperature data to figure out when to scout for larvae.

Photo 1. Adult black cutworm moth. Notice the characteristic dagger-shaped marks on the forewings of this pest. Image by Adam Sisson.

The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach IPM Program organizes a network of farmers, agronomists, Extension personnel, and others to monitor black cutworm traps around state (Photo 2). At least one county in Iowa has reported a peak flight so far this season, while lots of traps are reporting low numbers. Of the 101 traps placed across Iowa, 46 haven’t caught a single moth as of April 23.


Photo 2. Black cutworm moth traps use a pheromone lure to attract night-flying moths and a sticky board to collect adults. Image by Adam Sisson.

The sporadic nature of this mobile pest makes scouting essential to determine if management is needed. The IPM Program uses this moth capture data and temperature data to estimate when farmers are most likely to see larvae in their fields. Adult moth trap captures do not necessarily mean there will be economically significant black cutworm infestations in a particular location, however. Field scouting is essential to determine if an economically damaging infestation exists.

Look for a future ICM News article including a map for the estimated black cutworm cutting data in Iowa when peak flights are determined.


Erin Hodgson is an assistant professor of entomology with extension and research responsibilities; contact at or phone 515-294-2847.

Laura Jesse is an entomologist with the Iowa State University Extension Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic; contact at or by phone 515-294-0581.

Adam Sisson is an extension specialist for the Integrated Pest Management. He can be contacted by email at or by calling 515-294-5899.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Integrated Crop Management News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on April 24, 2015. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.


Erin Hodgson Professor

Dr. Erin Hodgson started working in the Department of Entomology at Iowa State University in 2009. She is an associate professor with extension and research responsibilities in corn and soybeans. She has a general background in integrated pest management (IPM) for field crops. Dr. Hodgson's curre...

Adam Sisson Extension Program Specialist IV

Adam Sisson is an extension specialist with the Iowa State University Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program and a Certified Crop Adviser. Sisson focuses on the development of publications and other educational resources for farmers, agribusi...

Laura Jesse Iles Director, Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic

Dr Laura Jesse Iles co-directs the North Central IPM Center and Directs Iowa State Universities Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic (PIDC).   Dr. Iles has earned B.S. (Animal Ecology), ...