The Q&A Archives: White worms in my pepper fruit

Question: Last year I had little white worms dig into the core of my pepper fruit. How do I control them? Marcia Levy South Windsor, CT

Answer: The creamy white worms are the larval stage of the European corn borer moth, explains Martin Gent, vegetable crop specialist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. The moth, which overwinters in plant debris, emerges in spring and begins laying eggs on pepper, corn, eggplant, tomato and potato plants in late June, he says. The eggs hatch in seven days and the larvae immediately bore into the fruit and stem of the victimized plant. A second, more damaging generation usuallyoccurs in August, explains Gent. Spraying to control the corn borer is tricky because sprays must be applied within a few days after the eggs are laid. Once the larvae tunnel inside the fruit or stem, spraying won't help, explains Gent. Malathion and Bt both work well if you time things right. Row covers placed over the plants after the first peppers have set will provide protection against the first generation of borers. As temperatures rise, however, the covers must be removed or the heat under the covers will reduce the fruit set, he explains. Tin walled pepper varieties such as Gypsy and Superstuff are particularly susceptible to corn borer; thick walled varieties (Canape and Canada Bell, for example) are more resistant, says Gent.

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