Wounded rotting pepper

Insect pests of pepper fruit

There is a long list of insects that can damage field pepper fruit in Ontario. Many cause significant damage on their own, but they also provide a means of entry for rot organisms. For more on pepper rots, see Pepper fruit rots.

Wounded rotting pepper

European corn borer

  • European corn borer entry holeseggs laid on underside of pepper leaves
  • newly-hatched larvae feed on leaves for a short time, then enter fruit under calyx or occasionally on the side of the fruit,  leaving sawdust-like residue around hole; larvae may also enter stems
  • larvae pupate inside fruit or stalks
  • European corn borer feeding in pepperif a fruit becomes too rotten for feeding, the larvae will leave that fruit and enter another, spreading soft rot to multiple fruit
  • present from mid-July through September; enters pepper fruit that are approximately walnut-sized or larger
  • can be monitored with pheromone traps – also look for entry/exit holes, rotting fruit
  • read more on identification, biology, management

Stink bug (brown, one-spotted, green)Stink bug nymph on banana pepper

  • adults and nymphs pierce fruit to feed, causing cloudy yellow blotches beneath the skin
  • most common in pepper fields from July to harvest; movement into pepper fields may peak as they move out of ripening or harvested wheat or as hay is cut
  • it is not unusual to see extensive fruit damage even though no stink bugs have been seen
  • read more on identification, biology, management

Stink bug (brown marmorated)

  • an invasive pest that is now present in Ontario, but so far more Brown marmorated stink bug adultcommonly found in structures than in agricultural crops
  • aggressive feeder; adults and nymphs pierce fruit to feed, causing cloudy yellow blotches beneath the skin
  • multiple life stages are present through most of the growing season
  • read more on identification, biology, management
  • read updates from OMAFRA

Tarnished plant bugTarnished plant bug on pepper blossom

  • feeds on stems and flowers, causing flower drop
  • pierces fruit to feed, causing indentations or holes, corkiness of the flesh, or malformations
  • three to five generations per year
  • like stink bugs, they may move into pepper fields when surrounding vegetation dries up or after nearby cereal or forage harvest
  • read more on identification, biology, management

Pepper maggot

  • adults emerge in mid-summer to mate and lay eggs in the wall of the pepper fruit
  • the larvae feed within the fruit, usually on the placenta, but also on the interior of the fruit wall
  • when ready to pupate, they create an exit hole in the pepper fruit and drop to the soil
  • only one generation per year
  • scouting is difficult – monitoring traps need to be high in nearby trees – egg-laying scars and exit holes are the only external signs of infestation
  • control needs to target the adults as larvae develop inside the fruit
  • read more on identification, biology, managementPepper weevil larva compared to pepper maggot

Pepper weevil

  • not thought to overwinter in Ontario, but has been seen in pepper fields in late summer
  • adults lay eggs in the wall of the pepper fruit
  • larvae emerge and move directly into the fruit
  • adults may feed on fruit, flowers, stems and leaves, but the biggest concern is the presence of larvae in the fruit and premature fruit drop due to adult and larval activity
  • pheromone traps are available for monitoring – necessary for early detection
  • when scouting, look for egg-laying scars, exit holes, fallen peppers with yellow calyx – adults are difficult to find unless populations are high
  • control needs to target the adults as larvae develop inside the fruit

Pepper weevil adult

Other insects

  • pepper fruit may occasionally be attacked by corn earworm or fall armyworm – they can also introduce rot organisms to the fruit
  • millipedes and wireworms may feed on fruit touching the soil

Rotting pepper fruit

  • spider mites, thrips, and slugs may feed on pepper fruit
  • insects like vinegar flies (more commonly, although incorrectly, known as fruit flies) are attracted to rotted fruit and can spread rot organisms around where they can wait for an opportunity to enter a wound or crack

Vinegar flies feeding on rotten pepper

  • other insects in the field — whether pest, beneficial, or incidental — can also move disease organisms from plant to plant, so once there’s a rot problem, it’s easy for it to get worse

Rot pathogens can be spread through insect traffic through the field

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