What Is Eating My Pepper Plants At Night? The Answer

What Is Eating My Pepper Plants At Night

Most home gardeners keep peppers because they are very easy to cultivate and require very little care. Moreover, peppers are very nice to have in the garden because you can use them to prepare or spice up different types of meals. 

While peppers are easy to cultivate and to care for and are used to make many meals, they can be eaten and damaged by different types of pests. In this article, I will share with you all the information you need to know about pepper plant pests and how to get rid of them.

Facts about Peppers

Before I share with the information you are looking for, here are some facts about peppers. I think these facts will be helpful to you when you are chatting with other pepper geeks, gardeners, farmers, or horticulturists.

  1. There Exist Many Types of Peppers. There are very many varieties of peppers on the market that can be used for cooking. Some are large while others are small. Some are sweet while others are hot. Examples include padron pepper, sweet pepper, hot pepper, piquillo pepper, and bell pepper.
  2. Peppers Originated From Central and South America. While many varieties of peppers exist right now, the initial varieties were introduced to the rest of the world by Spanish colonial authorities who found them being used by the natives of Central and South America.
  3. Peppers Are Widely Used To Make Different Types of Dishes, Creams, and Salads. This is probably a fact you know so well. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have considered growing peppers. 
  4. China Is The World’s Largest Pepper Producer. China produces around millions of tons of fresh pepper produce and hundreds of thousands of tons of dry pepper products every year.
  5. Peppers Are Healthy. Peppers don’t just add taste to food. They provide potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C which are important for overall wellbeing.

Pests That Eat Pepper Plants

Now that you know key facts about pepper plants that you can use to impress friends and acquaintances, it is time to find out what exactly is eating your pepper plants. 

Even if you are taking very good care of your pepper plants, there is no guarantee that they won’t be attacked by pests. This is because many garden pests can attack and eat pepper plant leaves and pods. 

Below are the garden pests that commonly attack and eat pepper plants:

  1. Snails and Slugs. Snails and slugs feed on pepper plant leaves. While they can cause plenty of damage, they are also easy to detect (because of the trail they leave) and easy to handpick and remove.
  2. Pepper Weevils. Pepper weevils are somewhat small insects with a hard body. They have a long proboscis that they utilize to eat pepper plant leaves and other tissues. Both their larvae and adult versions eat pepper plant leaves and pods. The larvae cause the most damage to pepper plant fruits.
  3. Pepper Hornworms. Pepper hornworms are actually a moth larvae. They are not very easy to notice since they hide during the day under plant leaves and in other places. And then they come out and eat pepper plants during the night. 
  4. Thrips. Thrips are tiny and not very easy to spot. However, they can eat pepper plant flowers and leaves and cause damage. The best thing about them is that they are easier to control than other pepper plant pests.
  5. Red Spider Mites. Just like thrips, red spider mites are tiny and not easy to spot. They can attack and damage just about all types of vegetables. They prefer eating pepper plant leaves. To identify them, hold a white pepper under the leaves of your plants and shake them gently. If you notice red insects then your plants are under mite invasion. White spider mites also attack pepper plants. But they prefer flowers and young stems. 
  6. Whiteflies. Whiteflies are very dangerous to pepper plant crops. This is because they can cause a lot of damage. They are, however, easy to identify; just shake your pepper plants every few days and if you notice any flies flying away, you should know that your garden is facing a whitefly invasion.
  7. Aphids. Aphids are not very easy to spot. But they can also cause quite a lot of damage. 
  8. Caterpillars. Caterpillars can also cause plenty of damage to pepper plants. They are particularly known to attack leaves and because they are big, they can actually eat a whole pepper plant overnight. They are, however, easy to identify by their droppings on leaves. 

As you can see from the information above, several types of common garden pests can attack and cause damage to pepper plants. 

So What Exactly Is Eating My Pepper Plants At Night?

As revealed in the section above, two common garden pests can eat pepper plants at night – pepper hornworms and caterpillars. Therefore, the answer to the question “What is eating my pepper plants at night?” is either pepper hornworms or caterpillars. If the damage is minimal, then it is most likely pepper hornworms that are eating your plants. If the damage is extensive, then it is most likely caterpillars that are damaging your plants.

In case you do not stop a pest invasion early, the overall health of your plants could drop to the point of some of them dying. So it is important to eliminate pests the moment you notice them.

How to Remove the Pests Eating Your Pepper Plants At Night

You can obviously remove pests using insecticides and pesticides. While such remedies are useful, regularly using them can make insects resistant to them, can cause environmental damage, and can make your peppers uneatable. This is the reason why gardening gurus use organic remedies to remove garden pests. 

Below are some of my favorite organic remedies for removing pepper pests. 

  1. Beneficial Insects. One of the easiest ways to remove pepper pests is to introduce their natural enemies. For instance, while aphids can cause a lot of damage, introducing lacewings, parasitic wasps, or ladybirds can quickly end most localized attacks within weeks because these insects feed on aphids.
  2. Beneficial Bacteria and Fungi. If you are growing your pepper plants in pots, you most likely utilized sterile soil. Sterile soil is perfect for most pests, fungi, and bacteria to colonize. To avoid your pots from being colonized by bad bacteria, fungi, and pests, you should introduce beneficial bacteria and fungi such as bacillus thuriengensis and mycorrhizal fungi. Doing this will lower the likelihood of your pots being colonized by the ‘bad guys’ and will create the perfect growing conditions for your plants.
  3. Handpicking. Pepper pests such as slugs, snails, and caterpillars can be handpicked and ‘neutralized’. While this is highly satisfying, it is a very tasking exercise. However, it will help you get rid of such pests in no time. Slugs, snails, and caterpillars are best hunted and removed at night when they come out of their hiding spots.
  4. Water Hose. Pests such as whiteflies, aphids, and mites can be dislodged from mature pepper plants by hosing them down.  However, when using this method to remove pests, care should be taken to avoid overwatering pepper plants or applying to much water pressure resulting in dislodged leaves and pods.
  5. Crop Rotation. Crop rotation is also a nice strategy that can be utilized to eliminate pests particularly those invisible ones that attack the roots.
  6. Removal of Damaged Plant Parts and Plants. The removal of damaged plant parts and plants and their burning or disposal can remove pests from gardens and prevent them from re-attacking. 
  7. Sticky Traps. By introducing sticky traps at the bottom of your plants, you will prevent crawling insects and pests from climbing up the stem of your plants and causing damage. There are many types of sticky traps available in gardening shops and on online marketplaces such as Amazon.
  8. Soapy Water. Spraying soapy water on pepper plant branches and leaves can neutralize many insects and pests very quickly. Spraying soapy water weekly can prevent pests from coming back.
  9. Neem Oil. Neem oil can be utilized to kill many types of garden pests.
  10. Bacillus Thuriengensis. This is a beneficial and naturally-occurring bacterium. It works against many garden pests.

You can use any or several of the above remedies to eliminate pepper plant pests without using insecticides or pesticides. 

The Final Word

The pests that most likely eat your pepper plants at night are pepper hornworms and caterpillars. The good news is that there are many organic strategies you can use to eliminate them. 

I hope this article has provided you with the answers you were looking for and given you the confidence to fight back against the pest or pests that have invaded your plants.