The Q&A Archives: Worms in peppers

Question: Each year I get small, whitish yellow worms in my pepper fruits. What can I do to control these worms organically? Dennis Schweitzer Berlin, CT

Answer: The 'worms' are probably pepper maggots, says Ed Merrotte, consumer horticulturist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. These maggots overwinter as pupae in the soil and emerge from late June through August as adult flies. The females lay eggs under the skins of developing pepper fruits. The eggs hatch and the tiny maggots feed on the interiors of the peppers, eventually causing them to rot. There is only one generation a year in Connecticut, he explains. As soon as peppers set on your plants, exclude the adult flies by covering the plants with a floating row cover. Where the problem is very severe, cover the ground with landscape fabric or black plastic mulch before planting. The mulch prevents the adults from emerging near the pepper plants. Plant directly through the mulch. Some growers have had success using red spheres coated with sticky Tangletrap - similar to the trap used for apple maggots, Merrotte adds. Hang one per 10-foot-row over the pepper patch, starting in late June.The emerging flies land on the spheres and become stuck. As a last resort, rotenone spray will kill the maggots, but must be applied weekly from early July through August to be effective, he says.

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