Here's the story: I planted my seedlings on Thursday morning. On Friday and again on Saturday when I went to check on them a few looked like someone had taken a teeny tiny machete to them and cut them off at the stem. For a few it was just a severed limb but for at least 4 plants (eggplant, peppers and marigolds) it was a death blow! I had no idea what could be causing this since it seemed far too.....well.....BIG an injury to be a bug.
Then yesterday (Sunday) a friend who was gardening a few plots over brought over a really ugly reddish wormy thing for me to see and asked me if I knew what it was. I didn't but, I went to get my handy bug book from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to look it up. After determining that it was the larva of the colorado potato beetle I went back to my plot and her to her's. She came back a few minutes later to show me this blackish/brownish really ugly wormlike thing to look it up in the book as well. I did and as I started to read the description I realized this bug was what was likely hacking my poor, defenseless seedlings. And then I was MAD!!! I wasn't 100% sure though because I hadn't seen any bugs in my plot so I, stupidly, decided to see what happened overnight and then decide. Well, I lost another eggplant and a few kale plants lost limbs last night due to my negligence so, no more messing around. I also found two live cutworms in my plot when I went digging for them in a rage this morning.
It's too bad I hadn't been looking for them when I turned over the soil BEFORE I planted any of the seedlings because I could have nabbed a few then and I could have taken steps earlier on to thwart their sinister plans to kill my plants. If you, reading this at home, want to get a head start you should look for them in the top few inches of soil and get rid of them. You should also put some sort of "collar" on your seedlings when you plant because the cutworms are too stupid to get around those.
For now here is what I'm doing in my personal cutworm war:
1) Nails or Toothpicks next to the stem of the plants -- I guess cutworms sort of make their bodies form a circle around the plant stem and if something like a stick or a nail is in their way they can't do that. I grabbed some nails this morning and stuck them next to most of the plants and I'll get some toothpicks later today. Cutworms feed at night so I have some time.
2) Cornmeal - This is not a proven method but, some people think it works and I figure it can't hurt to try it. The theory is that cutworms like the taste of cormeal so if you sprinkle some around your plants they will eat it but then...... they can't digest it so they die (Bwah Ha Ha Ha Ha!). I did the cormeal thing this morning so we'll see how it goes.
3) Night hunting - Because cutworms come out at night you can find them with a flashlight and get rid of them then. I'm pretty excited to try this one!
As mad as I am about these F***ing cutworms, I suppose it's good to have experiences like this because you learn what to do to prevent them in the future. I will be better prepared next time.