Small brown droppings on my pepper plant

mikehga79October 4, 2013

I noticed these on my pepper plants this morning. Is it anything I should worry about or lookout for?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if its the same color as the plant.. look for the butt it came out of ...

thats not a dive bomb job.. something crawled by.. and stopped for a rest ... wonder if it got a shower and a shave at the same time ..


ps: yes... i realize i am in a weird mood .. lol

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 12:27PM
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Yes you should be concerned. Those are caterpillar droppings, maybe horned caterpillar, because they are quite big. I've been having this problem since about 2 months ago with my heirloom tomatoes. These caterpillars are voracious, they eat enormous quantities of leaves in one day. I already tried PHC Neem azadyrachtin extract, garlic extract, potassium soap, pyrethrins, and nothing kills them effectively. I am still working on this problem. The best way is to find the leaf where the moth placed its eggs and cut it off, but the problem is finding it. The caterpillars are usually green so they camouflage with the leaves, so its really hard to spot them. I know you can use Bacillus turigiensis to kill these but it takes about 3 days.

Update me on this poop.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 3:03PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Look somewhere above those droppings to find the culprit.
Search the plant for egg and squish them. Find the caterpillars, they aren't invisible....just sneaky. Remove by hand when you find them. I toss them in the yard where the birds can find them.....or the bird bath.

I'd avoid pesticides to control caterpillars on your peppers. There are several predators and parasitoids of caterpillars that could be harmed.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 4:13PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

for that size result.. you ought to be looking for something the size of you little finger ...

snap a pic when you find it ...


    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Yes, caterpilar droppings alright, properly called frass. And, considering the size of them, and the time of year, probably a pretty good sized one at that.

If you see a hornworm with little white cocoons on it (they look like tiny grains of rice), leave it be - these are cocoons of a beneficial wasp that parasitize caterpillars, so you'll want the next generation to hatch and continue patrolling your garden.

Now, the other side of the picture:
1. The hornworm is the larval stage of a sphinx moth, also known as a hummingbird moth, which many people enjoy seeing in their gardens. No hornworm = no sphinx moth.

2. The braconid wasp is rather indiscriminate in choosing the host into which it lays its eggs ... might choose a hornworm ... might choose the caterpillar of a butterfly.

Decisions ... decisions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Braconid wasp on hornworm

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 8:52PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Agarden, is the point you're trying to make is that butterflies are somehow more valuable than moths? Or that parasitic/predatory insects are a problem because they also go after their fellow beneficials?

For example, I do NOT tolerate praying mantids in my gardens because of their love of butterflies, bees, and predatory insects on their turf.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 10:00PM
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Rhizo - Only an effort to inform the OP, and other readers, so they can make an informed decision. I don't necessarily consider butterflies more valuable than moths (just look at the gorgeous luna moth, or impressive polyphemus and imperial moths), nor parasitic/predatory insects a problem. What is a problem is when things get out of balance. There is an exquisite system out there, above ground and below, that we are only beginning to understand and appreciate.

I work in a public garden where people just love the hummingbird moths ... will stand and watch them for a long time, but will cringe at the sight of a tobacco hornworm and tell us we should crush it.

Since the first instar monarch caterpillars were disappearing from our Monarch Waystation last summer, we raised some indoors in a cage. Just as one was ready to form its chrysalis, it was found dead, parasitized by a tachinid fly. What to do with the fly pupae - destroy them because they parasitize our monarch cats, or release them since they also help control pesty cats? (They weren't the reason our first instars were disappearing, as the fly larvae's development is dependent upon the caterpillar completing all five instars. It was more likely spiders or visitors who carried them off.)

Praying mantids will apparently eat anything they can catch; I've even seen a video of a mantid capturing and eating a hummingbird! They are interesting but voracious things, and I understand they'll eat each other as readily as anything else.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 7:51PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Very good post!

I grow quite a few flowering plants with the pollinators in mind. When I began finding little piles of butterfly wings beneath the flowers, I knew I had to do something!

So I went on a search mission and relocated every mantid I found to my vegetable garden.....but they would return to the flowers as soon as I started to walk away! I watched them.

After that, I began to send them with my husband to work in a little box. They have a very successful IPM program in operation on campus.

I also watch bats swoop down to catch moths in the evening. That's pretty entertaining.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 8:30PM
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