Worms On Peppers: What Is Eating My Peppers?

Worms On Peppers: What Is Eating My Peppers?

By: Kathee Mierzejewski

When it comes to pepper plants, there are many different pepper pests. You can avoid them as long as you treat the area, but you have to be careful treating around vegetable gardens as to what you use and how much. If you’re having trouble with your pepper plants, this article might help you know which pepper pests you are dealing with so you can apply the appropriate treatment.

Types of Worms on Peppers

There is a pepper caterpillar called the tobacco hornworm. This particular pepper caterpillar is green and has a red anal horn. The pepper caterpillar will munch on both the fruit and the leaves of your pepper plant. You will know he ‘s been there because he leaves large open scars on the peppers themselves.

Pepper grubs eat at the roots of the pepper plant and prevent the plant from absorbing the nutrients it needs from the soil. This will cause smaller peppers and even plants that simply do not produce any peppers.

A pepper worm, like the beet armyworm, is another pest that can damage your pepper plants. This pepper worm is about one-third the size of the pepper caterpillar. He can be green or black and is a larva. He will damage the buds and young leaves on the pepper plant. This will prevent any good peppers from forming.

Worms on peppers are truly the biggest pest. The corn earworm will actually leave holes in the peppers themselves, and the pepper maggot feeds on the inside of the fruit and also leaves holes. When it comes to worms on peppers, just look for holes in the fruit. This should tell you it’s probably a worm you are dealing with.

Other pepper pests can include flea beetles and pepper weevils, which chew holes in the foliage of the pepper plant. These aren’t good becausethey can eventually harm the plant, but aren’t as bad as some of the other pests mentioned.

Controlling pests with the proper pest control remedies is your best bet. Pests love the pepper plant because of its sweetness. Simply watch out for the signs of pest damage and treat the plants with a solution of soapy water, neem oil or garlic spray, or remove the caterpillars by hand. Your local garden center may have other suggestions.

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Remedy for Green Pepper Plant Bugs

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Green peppers are warm-season annuals and members of the genus Capiscum. They grow on compact bushes ranging from 1 to 4 feet tall. Used for salads, in many types of cooking and often stuffed, the thick-walled vegetables are commonly called bell peppers and come in an array of sizes, shapes and colors. Though less susceptible than tomatoes to pests and diseases, green peppers are still vulnerable to attacks from various insects. Fortunately, most pests can be eradicated without resorting to chemical insecticides.

The tomato hornworm is the larval stage of the five-spotted hawk moth. Both stages of this insect are formidable to see, but the hornworm is not a welcome sight in the vegetable garden. Hornworms favor the leaves of tomato and pepper plants. Since the hornworms blend in so well with the foliage, you might not notice them until you start to see the damage. Because the hornworm is so large (about the size of a pinkie finger), the easiest way to get rid of it is to simply remove it from the plant and dispose of it.

Common Insects Attacking Peppers

ENTFACT-301: Common Insects Attacking Peppers | Download PDF

By Ric Bessin, Extension SpecialistUniversity of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Pepper production in Kentucky is plagued by moderate levels of insect pests. This includes European corn borer and beet armyworm that attack the fruit (direct pests) as well as insects attacking the foliage such as aphids (indirect pests). However, as with most insects encountered in the Midwest USA, populations of individual pests vary from year to year and location to location, reinforcing the need to routinely monitor pepper fields.


European corn borer can cause severe damage to peppers through damage to the fruit and premature drop of small fruit. Borer entrance holes in larger pods allow water to enter, resulting in fruit rot. When rotting begins, borers often leave and move to infest new fruit. In this way, one larva can damage several pods. In addition, plants may break due to tunneling by the borers in the stems.

Figure 1. European corn borer is less common since the introduction of Bt corn.

European corn borer moths tend to congregate in tall grassy areas around field margins, called action sites. Females fly into fields at night to lay their eggs. Weather conditions during egg laying can greatly affect the severity of corn borer problems. Calm warm nights are most favorable for moth activity while few eggs are laid on windy, stormy nights.

European corn borer eggs are laid in masses of 15 to 30 eggs per mass. Eggs are round and flattened and overlap each other like fish scales. Often they are placed on the underside of the pepper leaf near the midrib. Age of the egg mass is indicated by its color: freshly laid eggs are white, then cream. When a distinct black spot, the head of the larva, can be seen in the egg, it will hatch in about 24 hours.

Newly hatched larvae, about 1/16 inch long, leave the mass and crawl toward the developing pods. They do little feeding on pepper leaves. Within 2 to 24 hours after hatch, young larvae reach the calyx of the pepper pods. Once under the calyx, they are protected from insecticides and natural enemies.

There are two to three generations of this pest each year. The first appears in late May through early June. The second generation develops from late July through August. A partial third generation may occur in some years in early September. The second, or midsummer generation, is most likely to cause problems for commercial pepper producers.


Abundance of European corn borers varies from year to year. Inspection of pepper leaves for corn borer egg masses and young larvae is impractical and ineffective. Growers are encouraged to use pheromone traps and/or black light traps to determine if corn borer moths are active and when treatments should be applied to control small larvae before they enter the pepper pod. If corn borers are caught in traps, then begin looking in grassy areas around near your field. If moths are found in these action sites, then a spray is justified.

Corn borers are difficult to control because of the short interval between egg hatch and larval tunneling into the pod. The insecticide must be applied before larvae have entered the fruit or stems and spray coverage must be thorough. Over reliance on pyrethroid insecticides can lead to the rapid buildup of aphids on pepper foliage through the reduction of natural enemies. While pyrethoid insecticides can provide effective corn borer control, they should be used in rotation with other classes of insecticides.

Try to avoid insecticide spray applications during the bloom period to prevent unnecessary bee kills. If treatment is necessary, then spray in the early morning or late evening when bees are not active. A dry spray deposit is less dangerous to foraging bees.


The beet armyworm is a major pest in the southwestern and southern US attacking alfalfa, beans, beets, cole crops, corn, lettuce, onion, peppers, potatoes, peas, and tomatoes. It is an occasional invader of vegetable crops in the Ohio River Valley. Although it cannot overwinter in Kentucky USA, it is a significant pest for vegetable growers because of its wide host range and resistance to most insecticides. This insect is killed by the first hard frosts in the fall. Producers of fall vegetable crops need to watch out for this pest during August and September.

Figure 2. Beet armyworm is an occasional pest in Kentucky.

The beet armyworm is a light-green to black larva with four pairs of abdominal prolegs and a dark head. There are many fine, white wavy lines along the back and a broader stripe along each side.

There is usually a distinctive dark spot on each side just above the second pair of true legs. Female moths lay masses of up to 80 eggs underneath a covering of cottony-white scales, as many as 600 eggs over a 3 to 7-day period. These eggs hatch in 2 to 3 days and the larvae first feed together in a group near the egg cluster. As they grow, they gradually move away from the egg masses. Many small larvae die during this wandering stage but the behavior tends to spread out the infestation. Beet armyworm is quite mobile one larvae may attack several plants in a row. Older larvae may feed on fruit as well as leaves. After they complete their feeding, the 1-1/4 inch larvae pupate in the soil in a loose cocoon containing soil particles and leaf fragments. The life cycle takes about a month to complete.

Figure 3. Beet armyworm damage can be severe.

Beet armyworm feeding on young tender growth can be very damaging to small transplants. Often a fine webbing is produced by smaller larvae near these feeding sites. Older plants can become rapidly defoliated.

Vegetable growers should pay particular attention to fall plantings of beans, tomatoes, crucifers, other truck crops.


Regular scouting of fields to detect the first indications of a beet armyworm infestation is critical. Growers in Kentucky and southern Ohio and Indiana should scout their fields weekly and watch for small beet armyworm larvae feeding in groups on young leaves. If beet armyworm larvae are found, a spray is justified. Sprays containing Bacillus thuringiensis var azawai are effective when used at higher labeled rates against young larvae. Newer, reduced risk insecticides, Confirm, Intrepid, and Spintor will provide effective control. If a complex of insect pests including beet armyworm are present, treat them as beet armyworm when selecting an insecticide. Beet armyworm has few effective parasites or predators which can effectively reduce its numbers.

Timing of insecticide applications is very important. Once larvae are 1/2 inch or longer, they become very difficult to kill with insecticides. So treatment must be targeted against young larvae. Only with frequent field surveys can these pests be detected and controlled effectively. Coverage is also an important consideration. Because insecticides can provide only moderate levels of control, it is important to deliver the proper dose to the pest. Drop nozzles, high pressure (200 psi), hollow cone nozzles, reducing sprayer speed (2 to 2.5 mpg), and a high volume spray will allow for thorough coverage of these vegetable crops.


There are several species of stink bugs which damage peppers including brown, green, and brown marmorated stink bugs. Stink bug feed with piercing-sucking mouthparts and inject digestive enzymes into the pepper fruit while feedings. This results in a type of damage called ‘cloud spots’ to the fruit. These are light-colored corky areas under the skin.

Figure 4. Brown stink bug on pepper fruit.

Stink bugs are highly mobile and readily move from crop to crop as the season progresses. Growers should monitor for stink bugs weekly and treat as needed.

Figure 5. Stink bug damage occurs below the skin of the fruit.


Several aphid species may be commonly found infesting peppers during most of the growing season. The most common aphid on peppers is the green peach aphid. Large numbers of aphids can affect pepper production in two ways. Honeydew produced by aphids can leave a sticky film on the surface of the fruit and cause the development of sooty mold fungi. Various species of aphids can also transmit viruses, notably potato virus Y, that can reduce yields. Aphid infestations may begin in the greenhouse on pepper transplants.

Figure 6. Green peach aphids can be common following pyrethroid applications.

As aphid colonies begin to form on the leaves, development occurs rapidly. Aphids reproduce without mating and individual generations may be completed within one week during the summer.

Winged adult aphids develop periodically and disperse from fields following periods of overcrowding. Colonies are found on the undersides of leaves, usually in the lower canopy.


Many of the insecticides used to control other pepper insect pests can contribute to rapid increases of aphids. Natural enemies such as lady beetles, green lacewings, damsel bugs, and hover fly larvae usually control aphid populations adequately. Broad-spectrum insecticides, particularly pyrethroid insecticides, can delete these natural enemies and allow aphid populations to develop unchecked. Insecticides should only be applied for other insects when necessary, as determined by trap catches and scouting, and care should be taken to select insecticides that do not favor secondary aphid problems.

CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.


Start by inspecting your plants closely. Look for the culprits under leaves and between plant stalks. Many pests stay on the plant at all times, and a close and thorough look will reveal the source of the problem. Other pests run or fly when disturbed, so you may need to "sneak up" on them. For instance, if you see a cloud of tiny, pale moth-like bodies fluttering above your plant, you may have a whitefly infestation. Some pests come out at night to feed, so you may need to check after dark using a flashlight. Snails and slugs, for example, tend to do much of their foraging in the cool and damp of the evening.

Once you've found the pests, then next step is do identify whether you have the "chewing" or "sucking" variety. This is critical since the specific steps you take in controlling and treating for insect pests are determined by the particular types that are attacking your plants.

Harvest and Storage

Pepper fruits require 35-45 days to mature from flowering to full color (red, yellow, orange) depending on the temperature and variety. Fruits are generally picked green (immature) or fully colored (ripe). Fruits should be firm, plump, and smooth skinned for best flavor and quality. Pick fruits as they mature. At the end of the season, harvest all fruits that are mature green or colored slightly. Peppers will store for 1-2 weeks if held at 50-55ВєF. Fruits are subject to chilling injury so do not store for long periods in the refrigerator.

Learning the Necessary Steps to Get Rid of Moles

Effective mole control begins with understanding the correct steps to identify and eliminate these garden pests. It is also critical to decide whether you want to kill ground moles in the garden or scare them away.

No matter what mole removal process you want to implement, we show you how to get rid of moles causing destruction in your lawn. Additionally, we provide homeowners with ways to kill moles with mole bait.

Knowing How to Identify Moles

Knowing how to kill moles in your yard begins with successfully identifying them and knowing the signs of mole tunnels. Moles and shrews dig tunnels underground with their front feet to access their food source.

The tunneling causes small volcano-shaped mounds and raised ridges of dirt in your yard, killing your grass and ruining the overall look of your grass.

It is also essential to know what a mole looks like to kill moles. Moles average seven inches long and have huge webbed toes to dig mole tunnels with.

Additionally, they have long hairless snouts and tiny eyes that are impossible to see because they are covered by fur. A mole rarely comes to the surface, so knowing what they look like is crucial to killing ground moles in the garden or your lawn.

Killing Moles in Your Yard by Eliminating the Food Supply

One mole control technique is to eliminate the critter’s food supply. A mole’s diet mainly consists of earthworms, larvae, and other small bugs that live in the dirt.

Killing the grub worms in yard is a straightforward way to prevent an extreme mole infestation from overtaking your lawn. There are two ground mole repellent options, depending on how fast you would like to get moles out.

Use milky spore and nematodes for an effective mole repellent. Milky spore is a powdered substance commonly found online and at organic stores. The powder is eaten by the grubs in your lawn and kills within a few weeks.

Milky spore may take a few seasons to be successful. A more rapid approach is to use insecticides that immediately kill the grub and their larvae in your dirt.

Without an adequate food source, moles find a different location to feed. Insecticides are not sufficient for killing moles in your yard however, it gets rid of them and will keep moles away – at least for a while.

Getting Rid of Moles using Castor Oil

Castor oil is another way to get rid of moles and gophers on your lawn without killing them. Creating a mixture of Castor oil and Dawn dish soap upsets a mole’s digestive tract, making your yard less appealing.

If you are looking to kill ground moles with Dawn soap, create a mixture with the correct measurements.

Castor Oil Ground Mole Repellent

To use this simple castor oil mole repellent recipe, pour the ingredients into a bottle with a spray nozzle and mix gently. Next, spray the affected areas of your lawn. Ensure you spray any holes where the moles have dug in your grass and cover them up with dirt after spraying.

We recommend you repeat this routine at least once per week to kill ground moles in the garden and grass that are damaged.

Seal a chipmunk hole or mole holes after treatment to further discourage the creatures.

How to Kill Moles in Your Yard with Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a hot spice that deters any tunneling animal from invading your yard. The hotness of the pepper upsets a mole’s digestive system and makes your grass undesirable. It’s one of the best natural ways to get rid of moles in your yard and it is easy to distribute.

After a mole consumes a small amount of cayenne pepper, it will either die or avoid returning to your yard. Identify where the holes in your lawn are and pour a small amount of cayenne pepper in the hole.

The moles consume the hot pepper as they burrow for grubs and earthworms and avoid returning to your lawn. Creating a cayenne pepper mixture is an additional way to use this technique.

Mix a ½ cup of the spice with water in a spray bottle and spray the affected areas. Using cayenne pepper is a long term solution for getting rid of moles in your garden or lawn area.

Kill Ground Moles in the Garden with Mole Traps

Mole traps are commonly found at home goods stores and are a quick and easy way to enforce mole control in your garden and lawn, just as it is one of the quickest home remedies for killing mice in or outside your house.

If you are concerned about the cleanup process regarding mole traps, there are now several hands-free devices that do not draw blood. The trap will catch a mole and kill it quickly and allows you to dispose of the critter without touching it.

Set up the mole traps at the holes you have located in your yard. The latest models of these traps have a signal to inform you when the trap has a mole inside it.

This easy method makes killing moles in your yard worry-free. Additionally, the clean up needed is minimal.

Using Poisonous Bait to Get Rid of Moles in Your Yard

There are many different kinds of bait to get rid of moles and other burrowing critters that have invaded and ruined your grass.

Depending on your preferences, poisonous baits kill the creatures, or some are non-lethal if you prefer that option. Most lethal options simulate moles’ preferred food sources and quickly kill the animal within a day.

Pour the solution into the tunnels located in your yard to kill the creatures. Granules are the non-lethal alternative to get rid of the moles in your garden or backyard.

The active ingredient in a granular compound is Castor oil, which disrupts a burrowing critter’s stomach and drives them away from continuing to search for food in your lawn.

Most granules require you to mix the substance with water before pouring the mixture down the tunnels.

Utilizing Mothballs to Repel Moles and Voles

Mothballs are an excellent way to get rid of moles and other critters that tunnel through your grass. If a mothball is of high enough concentration, it kills the mole in its tunnel.

Otherwise, the lower concentrated moth balls are non-lethal and repel a mole from your yard. The fumes excreted from a mothball release a pesticide inhaled by moles and deter them from your yard.

Understanding how to kill moles in your yard using mothballs is straightforward. Place one or two mothballs or a small number of moth flakes in the open holes found in your garden or grass.

After the moles inhale the fumes from the mothball, they are quick to evacuate the premises.

Ultrasonic Lights Scare Moles Away from Your Lawn

Using ultrasonic lights is one of the safest solutions to deter moles from ever invading your yard. These lights combine noises audible to the human ear as well as ultrasonic sound waves.

Ultrasonic sound waves are higher pitched and are heard by animals to repel moles and other critters. The loud and high-pitched sound waves are very annoying to a mole. Additionally, the devices are easy to install.

Place the ultrasonic lights in your yard and let the sound waves scare away moles, voles, bats, as well as spiders from infesting and destroying your grass.

Ultrasonic lights will not kill moles in the garden and grass areas in your yard. However, the devices prevent an invasion of moles from tunneling underground.

Protecting Your Garden from a Mole Invasion

Some individual plants and flowers naturally protect your garden from a mole infestation. A humane and all-natural way to protect your garden from moles is to plant marigolds, alliums, and daffodils in your flower beds.

These plants contain pyrethrins, a natural aroma that makes the soil in your garden undesirable for burrowing critters. Planting these flowers is best to do in the early spring as they require warmer temperatures and a significant amount of water to stay healthy.

Another reason planting these unique plants is a great way to prevent moles from digging tunnels is that the plants are not poisonous to other animals that may visit your yard.

Moles are destructive tunnel-digging creatures that cause significant damage to your yard. Additionally, they often create problems with your pets and destroy large areas of grass.

The raised mounds of dirt and the one-inch openings in your lawn are the first signs that you have a mole infestation.

Luckily, there are several homemade ways to either get rid of or kill the moles underground, like Castor oil, Dawn dish soap, and mothballs.


If these creative tips taught you how to kill moles in your yard, share this article that shows how easy killing moles in your yard is on Pinterest and Facebook.

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