Is there a non-poison way to get rid of cutworms that will work with sweet corn? I'm OK with poison if there is no other way. But I prefer to use non-poison methods when they will work.

Last summer I started a garden on my brother's land. It was previously a horse pasture, now lying fallow. I did a LOT of hand-digging as therapy. Noticed quite a few cut-worms while digging. (Squashed all the ones I found.) The only thing they really got after was the sweet corn. I planted four rounds of it, with 1.5 weeks between each. The first round did OK. The last three rounds sprouted then got eaten off at about 4 inches high (about 10 cm), the plants laying there with no roots. Grrrr!

Here is a web site that recommends several methods.

I have no experience with diatomaceous earth, so any advice on that is appreciated.

The other methods don't seem practical for the amount of sweet corn I want to plant. Four plantings, each planting was two rows, each row about 10 yards (about 10 meters) long. I can't see myself putting plant collars around the seeds, for example, even if it will work.

  • 1
    Done efficiently, collars are not terribly labor intensive. Two rows per planting is not a good idea WRT pollination (better to have 4 rows half as long per "block" or succession planting, due to how corn wind pollinates, rather than being insect pollinated.)
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


BT ( bacillus thurengensis ) is non-toxic to anything other than insects. It can be used on vegetables right up to harvest. My son just verified that diatomaceous earth had no effect on caterpillars in his vegetable garden.


The post you refer to suggests that diatomaceous earth may also kill bees. I suspect it will not be cheap. I see it is $36 a kilo here and you may have to keep renewing it.

  • The nail idea seems to be the easiest. I recommend that you try the nails and collars first.

  • Or try the toilet rolls or aluminium foil

One way to keep cutworms from destroying your seedlings is to create a barrier to keep cutworms out. Place aluminum foil or cardboard collars (think toilet paper rolls) around transplants. Be sure the barrier extends into the soil to keep burrowing worms out.

Dealing With Cutworm Damage

Otherwise Yates have this product

Yates Success Ultra Insect Control - Concentrate Helps control common caterpillars, thrips, codling moth and tomato potato psyllid. Contains spinetoram derived from beneficial soil bacteria.

Note - I am not affiliated remotely with any of the sites.

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