Egg - The spherical white or pale yellow eggs are ribbed and slightly less than 1 mm in diameter. They are laid in irregular elongate patches and turn brown before hatching.
Larva - The smooth-skinned larva is pale gray or light brown mottled with dark brown. The first three abdominal segments bear two yellow or orange dots while the eighth segment is marked with a dark "W." The mature larva may be as long as 40 mm and curls into a C-shaped ball when disturbed.
Pupa - The reddish-brown pupa is 15 to 20 mm long.
Host Plants - The variegated cutworm feeds on a variety of garden crops, trees, vines, grasses, field crops, ornamentals, and greenhouse plants.
Damage - Beginning in early spring and continuing throughout summer, variegated cutworms climb host plants and devour foliage, buds, and fruit. Damaging infestations, however, are sporadic. Because the variegated cutworm is one of the few cutworm species that climb plants to feed, its presence is usually more noticeable than that of subterranean cutworms. Late larval instars, however, burrow in the soil and cut off plants at or near the soil surface.
Life History - Variegated cutworms overwinter as pupae with a high percent mortality occurring during this life stage. Female moths emerging from surviving pupae compensate by laying over 2,000 eggs during their short life span. Clusters of 60 or more eggs are deposited on stems or leaves of low-growing plants as well as on fences and buildings. During summer, eggs usually hatch in 5 days. The active larvae feed at night and on cloudy days for about 3-1/2 weeks before burrowing into soil to pupate. The pupal stage lasts two weeks to a month before second generation moths emerge. Requiring 48 days to complete a life cycle, variegated cutworms produce two to four generations each year. The exact number of annual generations produced in North Carolina is not known.
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