Answer: The mysterious insect is probably the flea beetle. This common pest of eggplant. The shiny, black 1/16 inch long adults emerge in spring and lay white eggs at the plant's base. The eggs hatch in a week and the larvae feed on plant roots for two to three weeks. The larvae pupate in the soil and the adults emerge to feed on eggplant leaves. Mulching at transplant time with a four inch deep layer of hay or straw changes the microclimate environment and provides a physical barrier to the beetles. Flea beetles like hot, dry weather. The mulch keeps the soil moist and also seems to block the emerging flea beetles from reaching the plants. Since the beetle overwinters on crop debris, fall cleanup is also important in keeping the population low. If these methods don't reduce the problem, you may have to resort to sprays. Rotenone sprayed at transplant time and repeated as needed can control flea beetles. Bioneem by Safer or Bon-Neem by Bonide will also control the pests. Good luck with your peppers.
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