Pepper plants, holes in leaves are a common occurrence. But you wouldn’t believe the number of possible pests that could’ve done the damage!
Many bugs such as aphids, beetles, caterpillars, but also slugs enjoy the taste of the fresh green leaf and no plant is immune to their attack!
Luckily there’s a way you can help your plants, but before we get into it, let’s see some of the possible culprits behind those holes in your common pepper plants.
- What Are the Things That Cause Holes in Pepper Plants Leaves?
- How Can You Deal With Pests That Cause Holes in Pepper Plant Leaves?
What Are the Things That Cause Holes in Pepper Plants Leaves?
The things that cause holes in pepper plant leaves include slugs and snails, insects such as cutworms, grasshoppers and aphids, but also caterpillars of various butterfly species. Potato beetles and cabbage loopers might also be responsible for holes in leaves.
Many pests enjoy and will gladly take a bite out of your fresh pepper leaves. Although most pests happily eat decaying plant matter, fresh leaves are often a preferable target!
Growing peppers would be incredibly easy if it weren’t for these pests. Some of them will eat peppers, some may even cling to stems and drink the juice. And then, some are absolute leaf lovers!
Therefore, before you can decide on the pest control method to take, it’s best to take a closer look – identifying the pest bugging your plant is crucial. We’re here to help with the most comprehensive list of pests that can drill holes in your pepper plants!
– Cutworms and Armyworms
These worms are larvae of huge moths and beetles, respectively. These worms grow quite big too – adult armyworms can reach a length of two inches! These will be your nocturnal predators, and you’ll have a hard time spotting them in the daylight when they’re dug into the soil.
These worms will most often attack young pepper seedlings and gnaw on their leaves, often even biting through the stem and cutting down the entire plant!
The damage these two make is quite similar, with one difference – cutworms are solitary attackers, while armyworms attack and feed in groups. Armyworms won’t be so picky either, and no plant in your garden will be safe if you don’t mitigate or control this threat.
Ugh, second on our list are those slimy mollusks known as slugs. These are often found in dark and moisture-rich places and secrete mucus, helping them move and stick to things. These will adore feeding themselves on decaying material, but will gladly chow on those beautiful pepper plant leaves.
Slugs will often show up when the rainfall comes, or immediately thereafter. If you water your plants in the evenings, the soil won’t have the time to dry before the morning, and this too will create an ideal nesting ground for slugs! In any case, slugs are easy to spot, and you can usually recognize their activity by dried-up slime on the leaf or the ground towards it.
Grasshoppers are summer insects that gnaw mostly on stems,
seeds, and leaves. Pepper plants aren’t their favorite, but given a lack of food, they won’t be too shy to give it a try. Identifying grasshoppers is rather easy – they create a chirping sound characteristic of them.
If you can hear these sounds, then grasshoppers are likely to blame for the holes in the leaves. Grasshoppers will create a bunch of holes in stems and leaves, as they will try different meals before they set their hearts on a single plant.
Aphids are small insects that will often appear translucent, but can be yellow or green! Their bodies are protected by soft shells. It is at this stage that you can destroy them easily. Aphids will attach themselves to the stem and leaves of your plant and will begin to suck on sap, which provides them with the nutrients they need to develop.
Once they become free to roam, they will be much harder to track and destroy. Any plant will be able to handle a few aphids on its own. However, if you’re dealing with a large-scale infestation, then you should seek a solution! Huge aphid infestations will lead to diseases like mosaic virus, brown spots, and others.
Other sap-sucking bugs that will gladly cling to your plant are s
pider mites. These will look like aphids, except mites have two black stripes on the translucent and white egg bodies. These are not insects, but relatives of spiders.
– Flea Beetles
These are one of the most common small garden pests that will damage leaves too! Quite tiny, black, and hard to spot, this is the flea beetle. These will attack the leaves of young plants, and create a bunch of irregular holes all pointing to beetle infestation!
Sometimes, these beetles will hide inside the crop’s flowers, but they can be shaken off the plant – especially when there are a bunch of them.
– Tobacco and Tomato Caterpillars
When we talk about tomato and tobacco caterpillars, these will be your hawk moth caterpillars. They are one of the most destructive pests of the nightshade family, which includes your pepper plants too!
These will grow up to four inches long and can devour an entire plant in just a few days. You will usually spot their activity by their meticulous approach – they will skeletonize the plant by eating it from up to bottom, leaf by leaf!
– Cabbage Loopers
Cabbage loopers, as their name would suggest, are primarily feeding themselves on cabbage leaves and other similar brassica crops like cauliflowers, kale, and turnips. If you’re dealing with huge populations of these worms, they will occasionally transition to your peppers and other crop cultures you’re growing around!
You’ll easily recognize a looper by the loops it creates as it walks. The damage this worm makes are holes shaped in the letter C or eaten sides of leaves.
– Potato Beetles
Potato beetles are common garden pests, usually attacking potato plants in drones. If you leave them to infest your potato plants beyond control, they will gladly pass onto your other nightshades, which include pepper plants too!
These beetles are very harmful and will eat a huge amount of leaves in virtually no time. Similar to caterpillars, these will begin munching on your pepper plants top to bottom. Small-sized groups will only leave random huge holes on pepper plants’ leaves as they go.
How Can You Deal With Pests That Cause Holes in Pepper Plant Leaves?
You can deal with pests that cause holes in pepper plant leaves by applying the appropriate treatment.
You can either turn to natural remedies such as neem oil or horticultural oil for insects such as aphids, or apply targeted insecticides to get rid of various pests.
– Fighting Cutworms and Armyworms
If you’ve spotted army or cutworms anywhere in the garden, these will most likely be the culprits behind the holes in leaves. One effective repellent is neem oil which you can spray directly onto the leaves.
If you’d like a more long-term solution, try raking up a topsoil a bit and exposing those eggs. Your friendly predators will take care of the rest.
You can also try to remove and reduce weeds to remove the initial food source for these pests. A good option is to invite birds or even bats into your garden – bats are especially good here, as they will hunt on worms when they’re most active, at night.
– Getting Rid of Slugs
Removing slugs is no easy task. It will be a rare occasion to spot them during the day and remove them, so if you’d like to remove these nocturnal creatures by hand, you need to stay awake at night. The hand-picking process is easy – simply pick them and place them inside a bucket filled with soap and water. You can also use pellets for slug control.
If you’d like to approach this with a more long-term solution, try watering your plants in the morning and letting the soil dry out before the night. You should also look to space your plants appropriately so that mollusks have no place to hide from predators. Attract some friendlies around – good options include toads, shrews, salamanders, turtles, and moles.
– Getting Rid of Grasshoppers
Luckily, grasshoppers won’t do much damage to your garden. Usually, their population doesn’t need to be controlled either.
But if you’re dealing with a huge infestation, there are some measures you can take to fight this battle! Protect your pepper plants by covering them with a lightweight netting, but you should remove this once the plants begin to bloom.
Place a birdbath or a birdhouse in your garden and attract birds that will appreciate a grasshopper meal. Also, keep your grass low by mowing regularly, as this will greatly deter grasshoppers.
– Dealing with Aphids
Organic control is the best when it comes to aphid infestation. You can use any kind of horticultural oil, neem oil, or insecticidal soap (usually a dishwashing soap does the trick).
Aphids have a lot of predators and their populations are usually controlled just fine by wasps, bugs, ladybugs, and spiders. However, you can use mint, sunflowers, or any other herb as a crop that will deter aphids.
Aphids are usually easy to knock down from plants using some water pressure when watering, but be careful, as you can do more harm than good with this method – too high a water pressure can severely damage your plant!
– Getting Rid of Flea Beetles
Many different pests will react differently to your pest control efforts and mechanisms, and the same can be said for these beetles!
The most effective are citrus oil, neem oil, and garlic oil. Simply make a mixture with any of these and water, you can add some soap too. Spray your plants with this mixture and your problem should be solved!
For a more long-term approach, you can grow herbs like garlic, radishes, mustard, or nasturtiums to divert these pests. Catnip, thyme, and basil have all proven effective too. Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, beetles, and damsels bugs will all enjoy a bite out of these pests.
– Eliminating Caterpillars
Considering their size, these caterpillars are easy to be handpicked and put in buckets of water and soap to drown them! Handpicking will usually do the trick of keeping their population in check, but if you want some extra protection try inviting any kind of bird into the garden, as they will happily eat these pesky caterpillars.
If you spot a hornworm with tiny white eggs attached to it, don’t disturb it just yet. These are the eggs of a beneficial wasp – as the eggs hatch, the small wasps will feed on the worm and will spread to the next one in line.
– Handling Cabbage Looper Infestations
Much like with any other caterpillar on this list, you can get rid of cabbage loopers by handpicking them inside a bucket of soap water.
If you’re looking for a more long-term solution, simply try to attract some bird species to the garden as they will happily assist you in getting rid of loopers. Plant flowers and other flowering herbs to attract the activity of beneficial wasps and bees, which will further fight and eat loopers!
– How To Get Rid of Potato Beetles
You can pick these by hand and squash them in the ground and kill them, or throw them in a bucket filled with soapy water. Whatever you choose, you have to act fast as soon as you spot potato beetle activity in the garden!
Certain pepper plant varieties are resistant to potato beetles, so if you’ve got a large potato crop growing this may be your only option. Crop rotation can also help you fight these beetles, as these are poor and lazy fliers and poor migrators, crop rotation will starve them.
Holes in your pepper plants are like holes in our hearts, especially when you consider how much effort has gone into growing them.
That’s why it’s required to act fast, as soon as you spot leaves that are damaged!
- Close inspection is crucial as soon as you spot holes in your pepper plant leaves. This will help you determine the culprit, and decide on the pest control method to take.
- Aphids, loopers, and caterpillars will be your worst enemy. Remember, caterpillars are best-taken care of when they are drowned in soap water, and you can use any kind of horticultural oil to control those sap-sucking insects.
- Try to invite some birds or beneficial insects to the garden, as these will be on the watch night and day!
As long as you can follow this advice and control these pests, you’ll have the pepper plant growing game on, easy mode!
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