Winter Cutworm Alert

This soil-dwelling caterpillar may be an emerging pest for many vegetable and strawberry growers in the region.
Nighttime observation of winter cutworm

Winter cutworm, Noctua pronuba, looks similar to yellowstriped armyworm but differs in that armyworms typically do not successfully overwinter as caterpillars this far north. Winter cutworm  is very cold tolerant, so much so that has been seen crawling on top of snow in the early spring. See a recent Question of the Week: What Are the Caterpillars Crawling on Top of the Snow?

This is a weird one, and considered to be a rare and sporadic pest in a wide range of commodities, but we're getting more reports of crop loss in protected culture (e.g. high tunnel vegetable crops) and even early season defoliation in matted-row strawberry. The only way to confirm the species would be to go out at night with your headlamp and catch these caterpillars red-handed…or red-mandibled in this case.

For more information on biology, lifecycle and identification of winter cutworm Michigan State's 2007 Factsheet on Winter Cutworm