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Peridroma saucia (Hubner) 

Variegated Cutworm
Hosts Distribution Damage Biology Behavior Management Reference


Ronald F.L. Mau, Extension Entomologist

Jayma L. Martin Kessing, Educational Specialist

Department of Entomology

Honolulu, Hawaii

Updated by: J.M. Diez April 2007


Variegated cutworms are general feeders of vegetable crops, cereals, ornamentals, fruit and forage crops have been damaged. Other vegetable crops include cabbage, celery, and potato. Elsewhere they are a major pest of peppermint (Berry & Shields, 1980). Larvae are also known to damage tomato fruit in other parts of the world. Other hosts are carnation, chrysanthemum and sugarcane. Refer to Rings, Johnson, and Arnold (1976) for an extensive list of plant hosts.


Variegated cutworms are widely distributed throughout Hawaii, the mainland U.S., Canada and Mexico. First recorded in Hawaii in 1899, the variegated cutworm is now present on Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu,


Felled young plants cut off at the base or near the ground level are characteristic of cutworms. Much damage is done to young row crops. Although not an active climber as one or two other cutworms, it has been responsible for considerable damage to grape buds in early spring and less often to orange buds. In addition, this species is known to climb the stems of other herbaceous plants, vines, shrubs, and trees and eat buds, leaves and fruits of vegetables and orchard and vineyard crops. In addition to characteristic caterpillar feeding injury, variegated cutworm caterpillars are commonly found feeding within Chinese cabbage heads during colder months of the year (November - April).

On peppermint the larvae feed on the foliage, this in turn causes a loss in oil production since the oil glands are destroyed during feeding (Berry & Shields, 1980).

On celery the cutworms commonly feed on the inside of the stalk near the crown of the plant.


In temperate regions this species is known to overwinter as pupae, however in Hawaii there are 4-5 continuous generations occur per year. Life cycle duration of variegated cutworms ranges from 35-62 days in temperatures ranging from 59-89.6F. Development rates at various temperatures are presented by Shields (1983).


Eggs are laid in masses comprising of 30 to 360 eggs. Round, less than 1/25 inch in diameter, eggs are a clear, pale yellow when first deposited, then change to brown and darkens thereafter. Eggs are generally deposited in parallel rows of uneven numbers, which make up tiny masses on foliage and quite often on stems of plants or trunks and limbs of trees. Eggs hatch in 4-7 days in warm weather.


The larval stage lasts from 20-28 days. Fully grown larvae or cutworms are approximately 2 inches long with a diameter of about 1/4 inch. Color varies, as the name implies, but the worms generally are brownish gray, mottled, with a darker brownish dorsal line and five or less brownish gray pyramidal marks on the rear dorsal sides of the larvae. There is usually a dark "W" mark on the top of the eighth abdominal segment. There is a discontinuous line of yellow dots lengthwise along the midline of the caterpillar. In addition, there is a distinct brown band extending along each side of the body. The narrow band can appear to be a series of connected U's when the caterpillar walks.


The variegated cutworm pupates under surface debris or in the soil. Pupae are approximately 3/4 inch long, of a uniform medium brown color and having two spines at the apex. The spines are black with white tips. This stage lasts for 2-3 weeks.


Adults are inconspicuous moths approximately one inch long from head to tip of folded wings. The body and wings are light dusty or grayish brown. Some dusty mottling is present on the forewings. The adult life ranges from 8 to 13 days.


Larvae are inactive, often curled under surface debris or loose dirt during the day and feed at night.

Adults are inactive during the day and remain under the foliage of plants, in the shade at the base of plants or under loose clods.


Biological Control

There are several insects that are known to parasitize and prey upon the variegated cutworm in the field. Euplectrus plathypenae Howard has been reported as a parasite of variegated cutworms. Archytas cirphis Curran, Chaetogaedia monticola (Bigota), Chelonus texanus Cresson, Eucelatoria armigera (Coquillet), Hyposoter exiguae (Viereck), Meterus laphygmae Viereck, Pseudamblyteles koebelei (Swezey), and Pterocormus rufiventris (Brulle) are suspected to parasitize this pest. Calosoma blaptoides tehuacanum (Lapouge) is a predator.


Variegated cutworms are easily controlled with soil applications of granular insecticides or with applications of pyrethroid insecticides.


Berry, R. E. and E. J. Shields. 1980. Variegated Cutworm: Leaf Consumption and Economic Loss in Peppermint. J. Econ. Entomol. 73(4):607-608.

Lockwood, S. 1956. California Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology. Loose-Leaf Manual of Insect Control.

Metcalf, C. L., and W. P. Flint. 1962. Destructive and Useful Insects Their Habits and Control, Fourth Edition. Revised by: R. L. Metcalf. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London. pp. 476-480.

Rings, R. W, B. A. Johnson, F. J. Arnold. 1976. Host Range of the Variegated Cutworm on Vegetables: A Bibliography. Bull. Entomol. Soc. Am. 22(4):409-415.

Shields, E. J. 1983. Development Rate of Variegated Cutworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. College Park: The Society. 76(2): 171-172.

Shields, E. J., D. I. Rouse and J. A. Wyman. 1985. Variegated Cutworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae): Leaf-area Consumption, Feeding Site Preference, and Economic Injury Level Calculation for Potatoes. J. Econ. Entomol. 78(5): 1095-1099.

Snyder, K. D. 1954. The Effect of Temperature and Food on the Development of the Variegated Cutworm Peridroma margaritosa Haw. (Order Lepidoptera, Family Noctuidae). Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 47:603-613.

Waldley, F. M. 1921. Life History of the Variegated Cutworm. J. Econ. Entomol. 14:272-277.

Zimmerman, E. C. 1958. Peridroma perphyrea (Denis and Schiffermueller). pp. 289-292. In Insects of Hawaii. A Manual of the Insects of the Hawaiian Islands, including Enumeration of the Species and notes on the Origin, Distribution, Hosts, Parasites, etc. volume. 7: Macrolepidoptera. The University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu. 542 pages.






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