Epsom Salt for Cutworms: All You Need to Know – A Simple, Organic Solution

Epsom salt is a popular remedy for a variety of ailments, but did you know it can also be used to combat cutworms in your garden? Cutworms are the larvae of certain moth species that can cause significant damage to young plants by cutting off their stems at the base. As a result, it’s crucial to address cutworm infestations as soon as possible.

Using Epsom salt can be an effective, natural way to deter cutworms while providing essential nutrients to your plants. The magnesium content in Epsom salt not only deters cutworms but also promotes stronger plant growth, making your garden more resistant to future pests. Additionally, Epsom salt treatments are eco-friendly and pose minimal environmental risks.

To use Epsom salt against cutworms, simply dissolve one tablespoon of Epsom salt in one gallon of water, and spray the solution on the base of your plants. This method can both prevent and treat current cutworm infestations without resorting to harsh chemical pesticides. Remember, maintaining your garden’s health is essential for avoiding recurring pest problems.

Epsom Salt for Cutworms: An Overview

The Use of Epsom Salt as a Pesticide

Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a popular addition to gardens for various reasons. Here are some uses:

  • Fertilizer: Contributes magnesium to the soil
  • Pest control: Can be a deterrent for pests

For example, many gardeners sprinkle Epsom salt around their tomato plants to deter pests like cutworms.

Why Epsom Salt is Effective Against Cutworms

Epsom salt works against cutworms due to the following mechanisms:

  • Saltiness: The taste repels insects
  • Dehydration: Salt can dehydrate larvae

However, it is important to use Epsom salt sparingly, as too much can harm plants. Here’s a comparison table of using Epsom salt versus other pest control methods:

Method Pros Cons
Epsom Salt Environmentally friendly, inexpensive May harm plants if overused
Pesticides Fast-acting, wide range of targets Chemicals can be hazardous

One common technique to prevent cutworm damage is to create a barrier using Epsom salt:

  1. Sprinkle a small amount around the base of the plant
  2. Reapply after heavy rains

In summary, Epsom salt can be an effective, environmentally friendly method of controlling cutworms in your garden. However, be cautious with the amount used to avoid harming your plants.

Application of Epsom Salt Solution for Cutworm Control

Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, can help in controlling cutworms. This section explains how to create and apply the Epsom salt solution to tackle these pests.

Ratio of Water and Epsom Salt

  • In a gallon of water, mix 1 cup of Epsom salt.
  • Stir until the Epsom salt dissolves completely in the water.

When and How to Apply Epsom Salt Solution

  • Apply the solution early in the morning or late in the evening.
  • Do this during the active cutworm season or when cutworm presence is observed.


  1. Use a garden watering can to sprinkle the solution around the base of affected plants.
  2. The Epsom salt solution will help repel cutworms by increasing hydrogen levels in the soil.


  • Apply the Epsom salt solution every week during the cutworm season for optimal results.
  • Repeat the treatment if you notice the presence of new cutworms.
Advantages of using Epsom salt solution for cutworm control:
  • Repels cutworms by raising hydrogen levels in the soil
  • Replenishes magnesium in the soil, which is beneficial for plant growth
Disadvantages of using Epsom salt solution for cutworm control:
  • Can be washed away during heavy rains
  • Might not be effective against all cutworm species
Epsom Salt Solution Chemical Insecticide
Eco-friendly Can be harmful to the environment and beneficial insects
Replenishes magnesium in the soil No added nutritional benefits
Needs frequent application Longer lasting effects with fewer applications

In conclusion, using an Epsom salt solution for cutworm control can be an eco-friendly and beneficial method for maintaining the health of your garden plants.

Epsom Salt and Plant Health

Positive Effects of Epsom Salt on Plants

  • Epsom salt provides plants with magnesium, an essential nutrient for various functions like photosynthesis and seed production.
  • It can improve the plants’ uptake of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil, fostering overall growth.

Example: Adding Epsom salt to tomato plants may increase fruit size and yield.

Situations When Epsom Salt May Cause Harm

  • Overuse: Excessive application of Epsom salt can lead to a magnesium imbalance in plants, inhibiting their ability to absorb other essential nutrients.
  • Soil type: Epsom salt is not recommended for plants growing in magnesium-rich soils, as too much magnesium may cause harm.

Example: Overusing Epsom salt on potato plants may result in misshapen tubers.

Soil Type Epsom Salt Suitability
Sandy soil Yes
Clay-rich soil No

Epsom Salt as a Pest Deterrent

Epsom salt has been known to deter some garden pests, including cutworms. It is:

  • Safe for your plants and soil when used in moderate amounts.
  • A natural alternative to chemical pesticides.


  • It may not be as effective as synthetic chemical treatments.
  • It won’t work on all pests, meaning integrated pest management practices are still necessary.

Epsom Salt Benefits for the Heart and Skin

Epsom salt baths have some potential health benefits:

  • May help soothe sore muscles and joints.
  • Improve skin hydration and reduce dry skin conditions.

Note: Always consult a healthcare professional before using Epsom salt for health purposes.

To summarize, Epsom salt can benefit the health of your plants and deter some garden pests, like cutworms, when used properly. However, it’s essential to avoid overuse and ensure the soil type is suitable for Epsom salt application.

Additional Methods for Cutworm Control

Use of Organic Treatments and Barriers

  • Organic treatments can help keep cutworm populations under control. Using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a natural bacteria that targets specific insects, is one way how to get rid of cutworms naturally. Bt is an inexpensive and eco-friendly solution for gardening enthusiasts looking to address a cutworm infestation.

  • Barriers can protect vulnerable seedlings from cutworms. Placing collars made of cardboard, plastic, or aluminum foil around seedlings can help prevent cutworms from reaching them.

Attracting Natural Predators to Your Garden

  • In addition to barriers and organic treatments, attracting natural predators can be an efficient method for limiting cutworm populations in your garden.

  • Some common natural predators include:

    • Birds
    • Ground beetles
    • Soldier beetles
    • Spiders
  • Encourage these predators by providing them with shelter and access to water sources. Eliminating excessive weeds can also help attract ground beetles, which are predacious on cutworms.

  • Keep in mind that attracting these natural predators will not only help in controlling cutworms but can also be beneficial for managing other pests, such as slugs and roaches.

Comparison Table: Organic Treatments vs. Attracting Predators

Method Pros Cons
Organic Treatments Eco-friendly, targets specific pests, inexpensive May require frequent reapplication
Attracting Predators Addresses multiple pests, no chemicals needed Takes time for predators to establish

In summary, using organic treatments and barriers, along with attracting natural predators, are effective strategies for controlling cutworms in your garden. Implementing these methods can help maintain a healthy and thriving garden without relying on harmful chemical insecticides.

Preventing Future Cutworm Infestations

Proper Garden Maintenance and Clean Up

To prevent cutworms from infesting your garden, focus on regularly maintaining and cleaning up your garden space. This can include:

  • Grass: Keep lawns mowed and avoid excess grass growth near your plants.
  • Garden Beds: Remove any debris or fallen leaves that can provide hiding places for cutworm larvae.
  • Compost: Regularly turn your compost pile to prevent cutworms from establishing in the area.

Incorporating diatomaceous earth and crushed eggshells into your soil may also deter cutworms due to their abrasive nature.

Planting Techniques to Deter Cutworms

When you’re planting your garden, there are a few techniques you can use to help keep cutworms at bay:

  • Cutworm Collars: Place these around the base of your plants to prevent cutworms from reaching and cutting the stem.
  • Beneficial Nematodes: Introduce these natural predators to your garden to help control cutworm populations.
  • Birds: Attract birds to your garden by providing birdhouses and feeders, as they’ll help to control cutworms by eating them.

You can also try using a soapy water spray on the affected plants, as this may help to control cutworm populations.

It’s also important to consider natural alternatives for pest control, such as Essentria IC-3, which is a plant-based insecticide that targets a variety of pests, including cutworms. Here’s a comparison table of Essentria IC-3 and traditional chemical insecticides:

Feature Essentria IC-3 Chemical Insecticides
Safety Non-toxic to humans and pets May have harmful effects on humans and pets
Environmental Impact Biodegradable and eco-friendly May negatively impact the environment
Target Pests Broad-spectrum control May be specific to certain pests
Application Can be applied through various methods (spray, fog, etc.) May require specific application techniques

Remember, prevention is key in managing cutworm infestations. By employing proper garden maintenance, clean-up techniques, and planting methods that deter cutworms, you can help keep your garden healthy and free from these pests.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Smartweed Caterpillar


Name this Catapillar
My Dad and I was out looking at the fall leaves and spotted this catapillar, its very showy can you name it for me. My Dad and I were in the southwest part of Arkansas, Dequeen. Thanks for your help.
Thanks Doug

Hi Doug,
Thanks for writing back with your location. We have been obsessed with properly identifying your distinctive caterpillar. It is a Smartweed Caterpillar, the larval form of the Smeared Dagger Moth, Acronicta oblinita. It is a highly variable caterpillar, but there is a near perfect match posted on BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Lily Moth Caterpillar from India


Subject:  Caterpillar type Worm
Geographic location of the bug:  New delhi , india
Date: 09/10/2017
Time: 10:35 AM EDT
It was found on road near garden
How you want your letter signed:  Vipul

Lily Moth Caterpillar

Dear Vipul,
We started to research your request by searching for colorful caterpillars in India, and we quickly found the Lily Moth Caterpillar,
Polytela gloriosae, on Project Noah.  We then pursued that information to the Insects in Indian Agroecosystems site where it states:  “Feeds mainly on Liliaceae and Amaryllidaceae. Known hosts from India include Amaryllis sp., Gloriosa superba, Crinum asiaticum, Lilium sp., and Zephyranthes sp.”

Letter 3 – Laugher spins Cocoon in Georgia


Subject: The laugher
Location: Palmetto, Georgia
November 12, 2013 5:37 pm
I found a fuzzy white caterpillar, around mid-October, which I later researched and identified as ”The Laugher Moth”. I found it near an oak tree in my front yard, and found out that oak is what it feeds off of. I put it in a container with some sticks and some oak leaves and later that day it built it’s cocoon. It was amazing how intricate the cocoon was done! He made it between two oak leaves (with a stick in the middle)…the leaves were completely flat against each other, with the caterpillar and it’s cocoon inside. It’s been this way for about a month now, and the outer leaf of it’s enclosure as since detached. I read some more on this species and learned that in the pupae state, it overwinters. So, my question is: How long will my caterpillar be in this state, and will it emerge as a healthy moth once it is done?
P.S. I named him Snowball!
Signature: Concerned Caterpillar Mom

The Laugher

Hi Concerned Caterpillar Mom,
Despite the blurriness of your photo, the Laugher,
Charadra deridens, has such a distinctive “face” that we believe your identification is correct.  This photo on BugGuide is a good reference.  Chances are good that you will see a healthy moth emerge in the spring.  We would advise you to keep the cocoon in a location where the temperature is similar to the outdoors.  Keep the cocoon out of direct sunlight and you might want to spray it occasionally with water to ensure it does not dry out.  Not all cocoons produce adult moths.  Some caterpillars fall prey to parasitic wasps and flies and though the caterpillar has entered the pupal stage, adult parasitic wasps or flies will emerge after feeding upon the nutrient rich pupa. 

Laugher Cocoon
Laugher Cocoon

Letter 4 – Legume Caterpillar


Subject: Unknown Caterpillar
Location: Daphne, Alabama
August 15, 2016 5:16 pm
Hello, I’ve tried in vain to ID this possible looper or inchworm, and hope you can help!
I found several of them feeding on Rattlebox plants on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, Alabama last week. Thanks for any info you can provide!
Signature: Joe Thomassen

Legume Caterpillar
Legume Caterpillar

Dear Joe,
This was a tricky one.  Loopers or Inchworms are distinguished from most caterpillars that have five pairs of prolegs in that they only have only two pairs of prolegs, causing them to “loop” as they move.  Your caterpillar actually has two pairs of prolegs, but it also has appendages appearing to be a horn at the tip of the abdomen.  Some Owlet Moth relatives in the superfamily Noctuoidea have a similar fake horn, so we searched that superfamily, and it is a big superfamily.  We eventually discovered the Legume Caterpillar or Pale-Edged Selenis, S
elenisa sueroides, thanks to BugGuide where it is described as:  “Larva: body cream or yellow with dull reddish or yellow lateral markings and several thin black dorsal stripes; two reddish or yellowish prolegs; two long anal appendages project backward from last abdominal segment; head reddish with numerous black spots.”

Letter 5 – Probably a Cutworm


Subject: Please help to identify this caterpillar
Location: Apache Junction , Arizona
February 4, 2014 1:02 pm
Found This Caterpillar by some river rocks in the dirt in my backyard. not sure what it is or what it turns into. Please help.
Signature: Mike

Probably a Cutworm
Probably a Cutworm

Hi Mike,
We cannot say for certain, but this is most likely a Cutworm in the subfamily Noctuinae, which is a very large group of moths.  See BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 6 – Staghorn Cholla Moth Caterpillar


Subject:  What caterpillar is this?
Geographic location of the bug:  Tucson, AZ
Date: 08/15/2018
Time: 12:45 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Can you please tell me what kind of Caterpillar this is?  It is on top of my buckhorn cholla  plant.
How you want your letter signed:  Maureen C.

Staghorn Cholla Moth Caterpillar

Dear Maureen,
Thanks so much for letting us know you found this Caterpillar on a buckhorn cholla.  Often knowing the food plant upon which an insect is found is of tremendous help in making an identification, and it only took us about a minute to find this BugGuide image of a Staghorn Cholla Moth Caterpillar,
Euscirrhopterus cosyra.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae feed externally on cactus, rather than boring inside like many other cactus-feeders.”

Thank you Daniel! I would have never figured this out. I’m new to Arizona and have never seen anything like this.
It is a fascinating looking caterpillar! Thank you again for your help.

Letter 7 – The Asteroid


Red caterpillar
September 30, 2009
Hi Bugman!
I found this in my field in north central Ohio this afternoon on a weed (goldenrod I think). It was a chilly day and it wasn’t moving at all. I’ve looked through my insect guides and on the web to try to identify it, but no luck. Do you know what it is?
Mt. Gilead Ohio

The Asteroid
The Asteroid

Hi Kirsten,
WE just love it when caterpillars have poetically descriptive common names, like the Monkey Slug, the Hickory Horned Devil, or the Orange Dog.  Your caterpillar is a first for us.  We thought it resembled the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, so we searched the genus Cucullia on BugGuide.  We quickly located The Asteroid, Cucullia asteroides, more commonly called the Goldenrod Hooded Owlet.  The caterpillars are highly variable, and there are no images posted to BugGuide that exactly match your specimen, but the coloration is represented in several images from New Hampshire.  The caterpillars are described on BugGuide as:  “Caterpillar: ‘Usually bright green or brown with yellow, black and white striping, but exceedingly variable…mid-dorsal stripe yellow, often narrowly edged with white, occasionally flanked by variously developed black subdorsal stripe. If subdorsal is absent, then five or six black pinstripes above level of spiracles.’ – Wagner p. 388(1) Base color may also be tan, or purple and brown, especially in later instars.”  Your lovely red specimen lacks the dorsal stripe, and has that awesome yellow racing stripe up the side.  BugGuide also indicates:  “There has been significant discussion whether all these are the same species of Cucullia or not. Seems as though there may be several species that look very similar as larvae.  See Also  Cucullia postera, C.omissa, C. florea are likely to have similar caterpillars, according to Wagner.”

Thank you so much for taking the time to identify my caterpillar.  When I took the picture I thought it was so distinctive that it would be easy to identify.  Ha!  I’ve spent a lot of time on your site in the past few days and it’s awesome!  Thanks again!


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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3 thoughts on “Epsom Salt for Cutworms: All You Need to Know – A Simple, Organic Solution”

  1. Thanks SO very much for your efforts to ID this beauty! I’m always coming across ‘first encounters’ on my nature photo hikes and know what a challenge it can be to determine an ID, so my thanks are heartfelt! I noted your wonderful investigative skill when I posted this caterpillar on my Flickr page!

    • You are most welcome, and we are thrilled to have a new species for our archives. It really was a challenging identification.


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