While pulling weeds in the yard over the weekend, I dug up this critter. It’s commonly called a cutworm, although it’s not a worm. It’s a caterpillar that becomes a moth. I don’t think I’ve ever found one wriggling around in the soil before at this stage. Sometimes, I’ve seen evidence of them when newly-planted vegetables are mowed off at the neck. That’s what cutworms do.
I tickled its belly.
Then, I threw it into the trash. Later, I thought about the encounter and wondered about the Big Picture. Cutworms, which become moths, have a role in Mother Nature. As moths, they are pollinators. And as far as mowing down young plants during the caterpillar stage, cutworms do keep undesirable plants in check, such as cheatgrass. A banner year for cutworms in 2014 decimated cheatgrass in Southwest Idaho.
Usually when digging around my yard and garden, I encounter the next stage of development for this caterpillar. Here’s what a pupa looks like. The moths emerge from these cases.
It doesn’t look alive, but mess with it and you’ll see it wiggle.