The Q&A Archives: Pepper Plant Leaf Eaters

Question: I have a few varieties of pepper plants this year that are being devoured by something. The leaves are being completely eaten off the plants leaving nothing but the main plant stem and the branches. I live in Wisconsin where there is a current large infestation of an insect called the "Earwig". I have noticed them around the garden. Could this be the source of the problem? I also need to note that it's only the pepper plants being eaten. My corn, tomatos, onions, carrots and other veggies go unharmed.

Answer: I would suspect you are seeing the work of slugs; they work at night so you don't see the slugs themselves, just the damage and possibly some slug slime trails. To control slugs, you can sprinkle the soil around the plants with diatomaceous earth, hand pick them at night with a flashlight (drop them into soapy or salty water), trap them in shallow saucers of beer or commercially produced traps, or use commercial slug bait. Be sure to read and carefully follow the bait instructions, especially if you have pets or small children.

Earwigs also work at night and can be trapped in rolled up newspaper or cardboard tubes (as from a roll of paper towels) filled with damp shredded paper or other similar material. You can also trap them in saucers of vegetable oil -- strain the oil each morning and reuse it.

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