Vegetable Eating worms

Cutting to the Chase on Cutworms
Tulips-in-bloom.jpg August 6th, 2008

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by Sheila Daar
June 1997
from issue #9

Yesterday, beautiful little seedlings were just poking their heads up in the garden. This morning, tragedy! Some seedlings are missing altogether and others have been beheaded, their fragile tops cut off, lying neatly beside them.

Cutworms are responsible for this evil deed. You may be able to find one taking a daytime nap by probing the earth with your fingers or, better yet, a pencil in a 1 ft. circle around the seedling stem. Of course, you can kill any cutworms you find by tossing them on a hard surface and stepping on them, but that won’t help the seedlings that have lost their heads. The only immediate solution is to reseed or transplant new seedlings to replace those that were demolished.

They eat at night, and sleep by day. Once you’ve experienced their damage, you’ll have no trouble understanding why the larvae of certain night-flying moths are called “cut” worms. The term is applied to about 200 species with slightly different eating habits. Most are gray-brown caterpillars, with the characteristic habit of curling up in the shape of the letter C when disturbed.

Cutworms sleep by day just under the soil surface, or occasionally in moist debris on the surface. Some make tunnels and feed just below or above the soil surface. These cutworms are the ones most likely to chop down seedlings. Other types remain in the soil and feed on underground stems and roots, causing plants to wilt. Some of these caterpillars are climbers that eat leaves or buds of larger plants or trees. Regardless of the parts of plants they are likely to eat, all of these cutworms come out at night to do their devastating damage.

Grass and weeds harbor eggs. The adult moths of the many cutworm species share a similar life cycle. In the spring, they are attracted to grasses and weeds to lay their eggs. They prefer weeds with multiple stems and many basal leaves that produce low, dense growth. So, the worst cutworm infestations in the vegetable garden generally occur where grassy areas have recently been broken up to create a new planting bed. When the young caterpillars hatch, they begin feeding on the nearest vegetation, slowly expanding their range as they grow.

Consequently, if you’re planning to enlarge your garden in early spring by cultivating a nearby grassy or weedy area, do it at least two to three weeks before any vegetable seeds are planted. If cultivated too soon before vegetable planting, cutworm larvae already hatched may migrate to the vegetables in search of food.

In the fall, you can begin a program to reduce cutworm damage the next spring. Thickly mulch the garden area. Compost, weeds, hay, leaves, or even newspaper can make a good, smothering mulch. Monitor the area in late winter and spring when the ground warms sufficiently for plant growth. Keep it as free of weeds and grass as possible. Remove any vegetation that might tempt cutworm moths to lay their eggs nearby, or continue adding mulches to deter weed growth.

An alternative to toxic insecticides. If mulching is not an option in your garden, you can treat it with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki. Btk is a naturally occurring bacterial insecticide specific to caterpillars and harmless to humans and the natural enemies of the pests. There are many species of Bt, as well as many varieties or strains within a single species. So kurstaki is one variety of B. thuringiensis. Products with this active ingredient are available under various trade names. Follow package directions.


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My worms aren't eating!

2002-09-30 14:22:45 by pickyworms

We got some Red Wriggler worms almost two weeks ago. Per the instructions, we fed them very limited choices & amounts the first week. The only things they ate were zucchini & newspaper. The second week we fed them a greater variety, but all they ate was newspaper. They didn't even eat the zucchini they ate the first week.
I really loved the idea of being able to recycle my vegetable waste, but the little buggers aren't cooperating! What's wrong? They aren't in the sun, they're under an overhang under the house. The bedding is moist but not wet. There are no bugs in or near their box, and it has plenty of ventilation holes.


2005-04-25 07:57:40 by sqwormish

Are you interested in starting a worm bin to compost your kitchen food scraps? If so, come on over and pick out your new worms. I am downsizing my worm bin because the worms have been over-propagating. You harvest the worms and leave the worm castings behind for me to use.
If you have never composted with worms before, I can teach you how to maintain these critters who thrive by eating up the food scraps you don’t want to eat yourself and turn it into a highly rich soil amendment for vegetable and flower gardens and houseplants

Earth worms don't live in compost piles

2005-04-14 20:38:38 by mesquites

And composting worms (red worms) don't live in the earth. Also, vermiculture is differrent from regular composting. Regular composting uses bacteria to break down the vegetable matter, and the bacteria do best with a good balance of dried leaves (as a source of mainly carbon for "fuel") and green wastes, which contain more nitrogen as protein. Bacteria have similar needs to other living organisms in that regard. With worm composting you aren't trying to break down the waste with bacteria so much. Here the worms are eating the waste and turning it into a better product. And much faster than with aerobic bacteria

Of course, if the vegetables were not

2006-12-02 09:13:13 by ---

Washed thoroughly.
Tapeworms eggs are in manure. Manure is used to fertilize land. Crops are grown there. Dust blows.
Birds eat worms with dirt on them. Birds poop on everything.
Raccoons and coyotes and such walk on the dirt, and walk onto some low vegetable crops like spinach or lettuce.
Potatoes and carrots and such grow directly in the dirt.
Wash veggies thoroughly. Those that grow in dirt must be cooked or peeled before eating. Fruit such as apples must always be rinsed off before eating.

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