Agrotis ipsilon

Scientific Name Agrotis ipsilon (Hufnagel, 1766)
Common Names English: Black cutworm, greasy cutworm; German: Ypsilon-Eule; Spanish: Gusano cortador negro; French: Noctuelle ypsilon
Description The adult is brownish-gray in color; the wingspan is about 35-50 mm (1.36-1.97 inch), with typical dagger-like marks on the wings. The larvae are dirty-gray, with a brown head.



Early instars cause make round holes in leaves. Later, the shoots are damaged close to the ground, often cutting off the whole plant, especially in seedlings. Occasionally, whole stands of a crop can be destroyed in this way, as each larva may bite through several stalks in one night. Larger stalks are sometimes tunneled into, causing an interruption of the vascular bundles and therefore wilting of the plants. Feeding on roots and tubers (e.g. potato, beet) is possible as well.


Eggs are preferentially deposited on low plants or dead plant material in damp areas of untilled fields, or in those that have just been prepared for sowing or spring planting, especially if they have been flooded recently. After 3-6 days, the larvae hatch. During the first two instars, they feed on leaves; older larvae hide in cracks or under lumps of soil, where they construct small tunnels or burrows down to depths of 3-10 cm (1.18-3.93 inch), only coming out for feeding after dark. Six (occasionally seven) instars develop during a 25-35 day period; the pupal stage lasts another 12-15 days. Several generations per year are possible; the spring generation is generally the most damaging, as young plants are most vulnerable.


Additional Crop Information

Corn, especially seedlings, root vegetables, and many others.

Agricultural Importance

Agrotis ipsilon is distributed worldwide. Its often sudden appearance is caused by migration. In some areas (e.g. Europe and the US), northward migration during spring is important, as it leads to oviposition on early spring crops in areas where overwintering is not possible. The host range is very wide, and in some crops, the damage can be severe, especially following mass immigration.

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