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Bell Pepper Pests-Characteristics, Behavior, Damage, and Management



Physical Characteristics: Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects about the size of a pinhead. They are covered with a waxy film.

Behavior: Aphids feed on the sap of a plant. They generally attack in colonies gathering on the underside of leaves. Aphids produce a waste product called honeydew, which can cause sooty mold on plants. They have the potential to carry viruses through their sucking mouthparts.

Damage: Aphid damage is two-fold resulting in both mechanical and chemical damage.  First, the actual feeding on the foliage will cause damage to some plants.  Second, aphids inject a toxin into the plant while feeding which transmits viruses and will also result in damage.

Management: Removing dead foliage and tilling in the spring is the main control method for this insect.  At the end of the gardening season, all debris should be removed from the garden.

They also have many natural enemies including lady beetles, flower fly larvae, lacewings, parasitic fungi, and parasitic wasps.

If more aggressive measures are necessary, aphids can be controlled with insecticidal soaps or other insecticides labeled for this purpose.


European Corn Borer

Physical Characteristics: That caterpillar stage of the European corn borer attacks peppers.  They have brownish gray bodies peppered with dark spots and black heads.

Behavior: The European corn borer moth lays masses of white eggs on the undersides of leaves.  Once they hatch, the caterpillars bore into the pepper through the cap.

Damage: The first sign that the European corn borer has infiltrated your crop is secretions around the cap of the pepper.  Their presence is more evident following a few weeks of feeding when bacterial soft rot is obvious on the outer skin of the pepper.  An infestation can wipe out a crop.

Management: Floating row covers placed over peppers will keep the moths out to prohibit their laying eggs.

At the end of the gardening season remove all garden debris where they overwinter.  Till in the spring.

In severe cases, insecticides may be the only option.


Flea Beetles

Physical Characteristics: There are several species of flea beetles with similar characteristics.  They are small and shiny beetles with large rear legs. Depending on the species they range in color from black, to brown, to orange with varying characteristics.

Behavior: Flea beetles chew holes in plant leaves. They can be found jumping when disturbed. The larvae feeds on the roots as well as germinating seeds.

Damage: Feeding causes small holes in the foliage. Feeding can cause enough damage to kill the plant especially in early growth development.

Management: Because seedlings are the most susceptible, use floating row covers while the seedling becomes established. Trap crops are another alternative, which are those plants set out to attract the beetle away from the desired crop such as radish or daikon.

Good garden management is key to keeping flea beetles in check.  Keep the garden and its perimeter free from weeds.  Clear out debris at the end of the season.

More aggressive measures include diatomaceous earth, horticultural oil, and neem insecticides.


Leaf Miners

Physical Characteristics: Leaf miner adults are tiny black flies with yellow and black markings and transparent wings.  The tiny larvae go through three stages at which time they range from pale, to green, to yellow.

Behavior: The adult leaf miner will puncture the leaves of plants and lay her eggs inside.  When the eggs hatch, the larvae will tunnel through the inside of the leave feeding on the plant tissue.  Once they reach maturity, they break a hole in the leave, drop out, and bury themselves in the soil until they emerge as adults.

Damage: The first signs that leaf miners are present in the vegetation are pencil thin, winding tunnels just below the leaf’s surface.  Leaves may begin to wilt.  Heavily infested vegetation may lose most of its leaves.

Management: The primary method of controlling leaf miners is mechanical removal.  Either pinch the leaves to crush the larvae, or prune the plant and get rid of the infested vegetation.

Use floating row covers to cover crops to prevent the adult flies from gaining access to the foliage in which to lay their eggs.

Remove dead foliage and till in the spring to kill any overwintering larvae.  At the end of the gardening season, all debris should be removed from the garden.

Leaf miners are usually not a problem because they have so many natural enemies.  The use of pesticides is usually detrimental to leaf miner control as they often wipe out beneficial insects exacerbating the problem.



Physical Characteristics: Resemble miniature cicadas.

Behavior: Psyllids feed on plant juices. Like the aphid, they inject toxins into the plant as they feed.  They also excrete honeydew, but the psyllid’s is white and powdery.

Damage: The toxins injected by psyllids can kill transplants.  The damage caused by psyllids on pre-flowering plants, called psyllid yellows can cause the plant not to flower, which means no fruit production.  It can also cause the leaves to be stunted and curled.

Management: Plants can tolerate high levels of psyllid feeding so management is often unnecessary even in infested areas. Introduce natural enemies such as the lady beetle, lacewig larvae, and parasitic wasps. Avoid excess irrigation and fertilization during an outbreak.



“European Corn Borer in Peppers, CV-1002-06.” Ohio State University Extension. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

“Peppers: Watch for ECB, Aphids, and Pepper Maggots .” UMass Amherst Agriculture & Landscape Program. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

“Leafminer | University of Maryland Extension.” Leafminer | University of Maryland Extension. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

“Leafminers.” University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

“Tomato (Potato) Psyllid.” University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

“Psyllids.” University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

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