PESTS OF PEPPER

Over 35 species of insects and mites are pests of pepper. However, of these only 12 species occur in North Carolina, and only 7 species may be considered of economic importance. These are the European corn borer, corn earworm, beet armyworm, fall armyworm, pepper maggot, green peach aphid, and the tobacco hornworm. Flea beetles, cutworms, plant bugs and the pepper weevil are minor pests of pepper in North Carolina.

Insects damage peppers by feeding on foliage or fruit or by spreading virus diseases. Obviously those feeding within the fruit are of most concern to the processor.

Three critical periods exist when insect damage is paramount. By mid-June, aphids have usually established colonies in pepper fields. By early July, populations of second generation European corn borers, corn earworms, and pepper maggots are growing. By early August, the most critical period, third generation European corn borers, armyworms and corn earworms have reached devastating levels unless a control program has been implemented.

KEY TO PEPPER PESTS

A. Insects that feed externally on plants

  1. Caterpillars with three pairs of legs near head and five pairs of prolegs

    1. Beet armyworm - Green or black larva, up to 30 mm long; three lightly colored stripes running length of body; black spot on each side of body on second segment behind head (Fig. 157); damages bud and young leaves

    2. Tobacco hornworm - Greenish caterpillar up to 90 mm long with red anal horn; body with fine white pubescence and 7 diagonal stripes on each side (Fig. 158); strips leaves from vines; infrequently feeds on fruit, leaving large, open superficial scars

  2. Beetles - hard-bodied insects with wing covers which meet in a straight line down the middle of the back

    1. Flea beetles - Various species of tiny, darkly colored beetles 2.5 to 4.5 mm long (Fig. 159); have solid-colored body or dark body with pale yellow stripe on each wing cover; chew tiny round holes in foliage

    2. Pepper weevil - Reddish-brown to black snout beetle with brassy luster; body about 3 mm long; spur on inner side of each front leg (Fig. 160); chew holes in foliage, buds, and tender pods

  3. Green peach aphid - Soft-bodied, pear-shaped, yellow to green insect up to 2.4 mm long with pair of dark cornicles and a cauda protruding from the abdomen (Fig. 161A to C); may be winged or wingless - wingless forms more common; winged adult with dark dorsal blotch on yellowish-green abdomen; cornicles over twice as long as cauda and slightly swollen toward tip; yellow-green nymph with three dark lines on abdomen; cause discoloration or mottling of the foliage; transmits virus diseases; excrete honeydew on which sooty mold grows

  4. Potato leafhopper - Spindle-shaped pest, up to 13 mm long; green body with yellowish to dark green spots (Fig. 162); usually jumps instead of flies; extracts sap from underside of leaf causing leaf to crinkle, curl, and turn yellow

  5. Corn earworm - Early instars - cream colored or yellowish-green with few markings; later instars - green, reddish, or brown with pale longitudinal stripes and scattered black spots; moderately hairy; up to 44 mm long; 3 pairs of legs, 5 pairs of prolegs (Fig. 163); leaves holes in peppers

  6. Fall armyworm - Green, brown, or black caterpillar with black stripe down each side and yellowish-gray stripe down back; body up to 40 mm long; 3 pairs of legs near head and 5 pairs of prolegs (Fig. 164A); head capsule with pale, but distinct inverted Y (Fig. 164B); rarely found in North Carolina before July; eats leaves and gouges fruit

B. Chewing insects that mine leaves or bore into fruit

  1. Corn earworm - Early instars - cream colored or yellowish-green with few markings; later instars - green, reddish, or brown with pale longitudinal stripes and scattered black spots; moderately hairy; up to 44 mm long; 3 pairs of legs, 5 pairs of prolegs (Fig. 163); leaves holes in peppers

  2. Fall armyworm - Green, brown, or black caterpillar with black stripe down each side and yellowish-gray stripe down back; body up to 40 mm long; 3 pairs of legs near head and 5 pairs of prolegs (Fig. 164A); head capsule with pale, but distinct inverted Y (Fig. 164B); rarely found in North Carolina before July; eats leaves and gouges fruit

  3. Pepper maggot - White, translucent, legless maggot up to 12 mm long with a pointed head (Fig. 165); feeds inside fruit; infested peppers have 0.4 x 0.3 mm egg punctures and turn red prematurely

  4. Pepper weevil larva - Grayish-white, cylindrical, slightly curved legless grub up to 6 mm long; pale brown head (Fig. 166); feeds at seed core of pepper or tunnels in walls; inside of pepper is black and filled with frass

C. Insects that bore into or sever stems

  1. Cutworms - Several species of fat, basically gray, brown, or black caterpillars; 40 to 50 mm long when fully grown; 3 pairs of legs, 5 pairs of prolegs (Fig. 167); occasionally feed above ground when young; older larvae burrow in soil during day, sever plant stems at night; curl up when disturbed

  2. European corn borer - Cream to light pink caterpillar with reddish-brown to black head; body up to 26 mm long with several rows of dark spots; 3 pairs of legs near head; 5 pairs of prolegs (Fig. 168); bores into stems leaving tangled frass and silk near entrance hole; stems break or plants wilt readily; young larvae sometimes feed under the fruit cap and later bore into the fruit.

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