How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines



Scientific names:
Variegated cutworm: Peridroma saucia
Darksided cutworm: Euxoa messoria

(Reviewed 6/09, updated 2/12)

In this Guideline:


Cutworm larvae feed at night and come in various colors and patterns but always appear as smooth-skinned caterpillars to the naked eye. They frequently roll into a C-shape when disturbed. The mature variegated cutworm larva is yellow to brown, a little over an inch long (3 cm), with a row of 4 to 6 yellow or pink diamond-shaped spots down the back. The mature dark-sided cutworm is somewhat larger than the variegated cutworm (1.5–2 inches, 4–5 cm) and gray to greenish gray in color with irregular, longitudinal stripes.

Adult cutworm moths are rather nondescript with dark gray or brown front wings that have irregular spots or bands and lighter hind wings.


Larvae feed at night on the tender tips of new asparagus spears where they eat small holes. One-sided feeding may also cause the spears to curl. The variegated cutworm also feeds underground and at the soil surface. Fern damage is generally rare.


Carry out good weed control in and around the field and incorporate field trash and previous crop residues thoroughly to reduce egg and worm overwintering. Look for damage symptoms and confirm cutworm's presence by digging into the soil an inch or so around a damaged spear. Begin applications when insects first appear. If infestations are localized, consider spot treatments.

Organically Acceptable Methods

Good weed management and field cultivation are acceptable to use in an organically certified crop.

Common name Amount per Acre** R.E.I.‡ P.H.I.‡
(example trade name)   (hours) (days)

Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
Bee precaution pesticide ratings
The following materials are listed in order of usefulness in an IPM program, taking into account efficacy, information related to natural enemies and honey bees and environmental impact. Not all registered pesticides are listed. Always read label of product being used.
  (Sevin) Bait 5% 30–40 lb 12 1
  COMMENTS: Apply when pests appear in damaging numbers and repeat 7–14 days later if necessary. Ground application. Do not apply more than 20 lb/acre to spears.
  (Lannate) LV 1.5–3 pt 48 1
  SP 0.5–1 lb 48 1
  COMMENTS: Use low rate for variegated cutworm. Apply at 5- to 7-day intervals as needed. Do not apply more than 4.5 lb a.i./acre/crop.
  (Ambush, Pounce) 3.2–6.4 oz 12 1
  COMMENTS: Apply by ground equipment only. Do not apply more than 0.4 lb a.i./acre/season.
** See label for dilution rates.
Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (P.H.I.) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
* Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode of action Group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee). For additional information, see their Web site at



[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Asparagus
UC ANR Publication 3435


  • E. T. Natwick, UC Cooperative Extension, Imperial County
Acknowledgment for contributions to Insects:
  • R. J. Mullen, UC Cooperative Extension, San Joaquin County
  • W. E. Chaney, UC Cooperative Extension, Monterey County
  • C. B. Fouche, UC Cooperative Extension, San Joaquin County

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Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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