Bell Pepper Pest Management
Bell Pepper’s Insect Pests
Whether they are stuffed, diced, sliced, or chopped, bell peppers can be a wonderful—and rather colorful—addition to many meals. Bell peppers, which are produced on about 23,000 acres in Florida, can be bought year round.
Since Florida ranks second for fresh-market bell pepper production nationally, local farmers should become familiar with possible threats to bell pepper crops and know how to manage them.
Broad mites, which are a major pepper pest, can be found on the underneath undeveloped, growing foliage. These eight-legged pests feed on the plant, destroying its tissue and causing leaves to thicken and narrow. When feeding heavily, these tiny, white mites can also kill flowers and russet fruit.
Unlike other pests, there are currently no scouting options available to manage broad mites. However, general mite predators can control pests, and timely chemical control—using specific acaricides rather than broad-spectrum insectides—can destroy the broad mites.
As adults, leafminers are small flies that puncture the upper leaf’s surface to feed or lay eggs. The yellow and black larvae eat on the leaf surface, leaving a twisting mine that reduces photosynthetic area and creates entrance points for pathogens.
While scouting the fields for leafminers can be useful, parasitic wasps can serve as a natural enemy and kill many leafminers. In addition, several insecticides are designed to affect these pest populations.
These dark yellow pests, which are often found in flowers, are primarily limited to southern Florida. Both the adults and larvae suck the plant’s outermost layer and cause “flecking.”
Monitor plants for adult and larvae, and only treat when you see more than two larvae per small fruit or six adults per flower. Rather than using pesticides, natural enemies, such as minute pirate bugs, and ultra-violet reflective mulches can control these pests.
While adults feed on leaf or flower buds, the females also bore small holes in emerging fruit and lay eggs. These larvae, which are legless grubs, eat to the fruit’s core, feeding on seeds and pulp. The infected fruit then rot and fall from the plant.
Pheromone traps and searching for adults during the morning hours can help find and control pepper weevils early. Because only the adult weevil is susceptible to insecticides, it’s best to remove and destroy all infected or damaged fruit, avoid planting nearby, and deep-plow crops right after harvest.
For more information on growing crops in the state, please visit the 2012–2013 Vegetable Production Handbook for Florida, which includes the chapter Pepper Production in Florida.
Adapted and excerpted from:
Mary King, “Florida Food Fare” (28.7KB pdf), UF/IFAS Sarasota Extension (Accessed 08/2014).
M. Mossler, M. J. Aerts, and O. N. Nesheim, “Florida Crop/Pest Management Profiles: Bell Peppers” (CIR1240), UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences Department (rev. 09/2012).
S. E. Webb, P. A. Stansly, D. J. Schuster, J. E. Funderburk, and H. Smith, “Insect Management for Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant” (ENY461), UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department (rev. 09/2012).