Pest Alert: Black Cutworm in Midwestern U.S.

Jayant Ahalawat

May 30, 2023

Disclaimer: This post was written by FBN Data Scientist Jayant Ahalawat, with research support by Norm, the world’s first AI Ag advisor.

Black cutworm activity is increasing across the Midwest, potentially resulting in corn and soybean crop damage, according to a recent report from the University of Illinois.

The map below illustrates the total number of black cutworms across the Midwest between March 1, 2023 and May 18, 2023. Based on FBN® data, cutworms are affecting over 1700 FBN member farmers over 2.3 million acres.

If you have a traited corn package, you may already have protection. We recommend monitoring your fields to ensure your crop is withstanding the insect pressure.

RELATED: Managing Weeds and Pests in Conventional Corn and Soybeans Starts with a Good Chem Plan

What Is Black Cutworm?

Black cutworm (aka Agrotis ipsilon) is a pest that can potentially inflict significant damage to crops like corn and soybeans. Recognizing black cutworm activity and quickly dealing with a potential infestation is the first step to eliminating these pests and protecting crops. 

A migratory pest, the black cutworm often travels from southern regions up to the Midwest in the spring. After reaching their destination, female moths lay their eggs on vegetation, mainly in fields with substantial weed growth.

Under suitable conditions, these eggs develop into larvae, which are responsible for subsequent crop damage. These caterpillars can severely impact young corn and soybean plants by cutting the stems at or beneath the soil surface.

Identifying Black Cutworm 

Monitoring your fields regularly is key to managing black cutworms. Pay special attention to areas with heavy weed growth or low-lying spots as cutworms favor these terrains. Look for signs such as irregular holes in leaves, wilting, or cut plants to identify potential problem areas. 

Treatment is typically recommended when at least 3% of plants show signs of cutworm damage.1 

How to Control and Treat Black Cutworm

In addition to general pest management practices such as weed control, specific insecticides can be used to prevent or treat black cutworm infestations. Two such pesticides are lambda-cyhalothrin and bifenthrin.


Willowood Lambda-Cy 1EC is a broad-spectrum insecticide that can help control black cutworms by affecting an insect’s nervous system upon contact or ingestion. If your corn or soybean fields are in areas with increased cutworm activity or show early signs of cutworm damage, consider applying lambda-cyhalothrin* by air or ground as a preventive measure.


Bifenthrin is another insecticide option that functions similarly to lambda-cyhalothrin by affecting insects' nervous systems. Bifenthrin LFR 1.5 Value Pick* is formulated so that it can be mixed directly with water and applied in-furrow at planting, while GCS Bifenthrin 2EC* is applied during the growing season in response to insect observation in the field and can be used in the event of lambda-cyhalothrin resistance. 

Always follow the product label's recommended usage rates and safety precautions to avoid adverse environmental effects and prevent resistance development.

RELATED: Address These Early Season Soybean Pests

Control Pest Pressures with Insecticides from FBN Direct®

Understanding the behavior of black cutworms is the first step to managing an infestation in your fields. By regularly monitoring your fields, adhering to treatment thresholds and using effective treatments like lambda-cyhalothrin and bifenthrin, you can control and treat a potential cutworm population in your corn or soybean fields. 

Double down on savings and convenience with direct-to-farm delivery from FBN Direct. Shop now to get 5% off fungicides and insecticides** when purchased with an adjuvant or crop nutrition product.


  1. Estes, K. "Black cutworm feeding possible in coming weeks." Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, May 17, 2023.

  2. Image source: Rasbak, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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*Lambda-cyhalothrin and Bifenthrin are restricted use pesticides.

** Discount available to FBN Members. Must purchase a fungicide and/or insecticide with any adjuvant and/or crop nutrition product between May 19, 2023 and June 16, 2023. Discount will be applied automatically when the customer meets the purchase minimum of qualified products. Additional terms and conditions may apply. 

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Jayant Ahalawat

May 30, 2023