Several species of cutworms can be present in fields. They range in colour from shiny, opaque, to tan, to brownish-red with chevron patterning. Cutworm biology, species information, plus monitoring recommendations are available in the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network’s Cutworm Monitoring Protocol. Also refer to Manitoba Agriculture cutworm fact sheet which includes action and economic thresholds for cutworms in several crops.
Scout fields that are “slow” to emerge, are missing rows, include wilting or yellowing plants, have bare patches, or appear highly attractive to birds – these are areas warranting a closer look. Plan to follow-up by walking these areas later in the day when some cutworm species move above-ground to feed. Start to dig below the soil surface (1-5 cm deep) near the base of a symptomatic plant or the adjacent healthy plant. If the plant is well-established, check within the crown in addition to the adjacent soil. The culprits could be wireworms or cutworms.
The following page extracted from the new "Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies" (Floate 2017; Page 5) shows the seasonal occurrence of lifecycle stages for different species of cutworms. To aid scouting, the seasonal chart outlines what time of year larvae of different pest species are present (i.e., when to scout) but it also describes larval feeding habit (i.e., where to look for them relative to the plant host).
For Albertans..... If you find cutworms, please consider using the Alberta Pest Surveillance Network’s “2018 Cutworm Reporting Tool”. Once data entry occurs, growers can view the live 2018 cutworm map which is updated daily (see below for screenshot of map retrieved June 5, 2018).