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Cut Worms

( Originally Published 1915 )

Cut-worms.—Cut-worms are found in and near sod-ground.

They eat the vegetables of our garden as well as our corn. The worst feature of their mischief is that they do not eat the whole plant but cut it off just beneath or above ground. Thus a large number of plants are necessary to satisfy each larva. Their ravages are most noticeable on crops planted in hills as corn, cabbage and tomatoes. They are known also to girdle young trees. They do their greatest damage to corn on the first-sod crop. There are many species of these rascals but the owlet-moths are mothers to them all. One of these moths is the dirty gray moth that flies so frequently against our lights during the spring months. The moths lay their eggs in the ground during the summer. The larvae soon hatch and begin to feed upon the stems and exposed roots of plants, but as they are very small the first season their ravages are little noticed. As fall comes on, the half-grown larvae burrow into the ground where they spend the winter. They emerge again in spring as larvae about the size of a child's little finger. They feed at night. Let the children go out into the garden and find cabbage, tomatoes or corn cut off, then look under the surface of the ground for the cut-worm. He will generally be found just under the surface near his mischief. One way to catch and to control them is to lay fresh pie-plant (rhubarb) leaves around on the ground in the cabbage, tomato or sweet corn patch. The cut-worms do their mischief and then crawl under these leaves to spend the day. I found twenty-three under the pie-plant leaves in my garden one morning. Another way to trap them is with the dibble used to make holes for the cabbage and tomato plants. Make holes about eight or ten inches deep with vertical sides, into which the cut-worms will fall but cannot draw their fat, lazy bodies out again. For field practice frequent cultivation, late fall plowing or disking, frequent rotation of crops including clover especially, and strong seed are to be recommended. The cut-worms like weak, tender plants best. Frequently it is a good plan to drill in a few extra rows along the edges of the field, midway between the regular field crop rows, so that the cut-worms, squirrels and gophers will have a double amount on the edge of the field and hence do half as much injury to the regular crop. The chickens and the birds must be asked to help us in our warfare against the cut-worms. The little striped gopher destroys many cut-worms each day.

The White Grub.—The white grub worm is another pest that does much damage to both field and garden crops. Farm children know him as the brown-headed, white, fat " worm " found in well-rotted manure during the summer months. He does most damage on old sod or well-manured ground. The eggs are laid in the ground, preferably in sod or rotting manure, and the larvae or grubs hatch and live for two or three years on organic matter, mostly plant roots. The eggs are laid by the May-beetles, or June-bugs (Fig. 103), which are the brown beetles that make a noise like a swarm of bees around trees, during the spring evenings. These beetles are the ones that come buzzing into the room on a spring evening and whiz around the light. The beetles themselves often do serious injury to the foliage of young trees from which they may be shaken on to sheets or blankets and then gathered and burned. But the larvir do the most injury.

Says Comstock : " We have known large strawberry plantations to be destroyed by them, and have seen large patches of ground in pastures from which the sod could be rolled as one would roll a carpet from a floor, the roots having been all destroyed and the ground just beneath the surface finely pulverized by these larva. No satisfactory method of fighting this pest has been discovered as yet. If swine are turned into fields infested with white grubs they will root out the larvae and feed upon them. We have destroyed great numbers of the beetles by use of trap-lanterns, but many beneficial insects were destroyed at the same time." As the larvae live near the surface, clean and frequent cultivation is necessary, also the presence of gophers, which eat both this grub and cut-worms. The chickens and birds must be asked again to help us in our warfare against this pest; the toads, salamanders, hats, frogs, and snakes must also be thanked for their help. Children must learn that life and happiness for whole communities may depend upon bright boys and girls learning to identify these pests and being able to distinguish the helpful from the harmful life about them. There may be some diseases of the white grub that we shall learn to multiply when some boy or girl tells us how. Fall plowing, so as to bring to our aid the frosts, storms and birds of winter, must not be forgotten. The white grub worm is said to be a prolific source for the spread of hog cholera, especially from buried animals.

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