The Q&A Archives: Mystery Bugs that Eat Pepper Leaves

Question: I have a dozen different pepper plants planted in my garden and all the leaves, especially the young ones, have holes in them or often even half of the leaves are eaten up. I do not see any bugs or snails or any worms anywhere but some insects must be eating them. Any idea what it could be? Would appreciate any response. Thank you. Julius Kovatch Mission Viejo, CA

Answer: I think you are being plagued by a soil-dwelling pest of some sort. Often, pests like cutworms spend their day in the soil, protected from sun and predators, and come out at night to feed. Slugs follow this pattern, too. One way to find out is to head out to the garden at night with your flashlight. Another is to create a trap to put around the base of the plant. Gardener's Supply Co. ( sells Tanglefoot, a sticky substance used for just this purpose. Make a paper collar out of stiff paper and wrap it around the stem of the pepper, pushing it into the ground for support (and so the bugs can't walk under it!). Coat the paper with Tanglefoot. The culprit should get caught in the sticky stuff. You can use this technique not just to find out what's eating your peppers, perhaps to control them as well.

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