What's eating my pepper plant?

Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)June 20, 2014

Something is having a good old time chewing on the leaves of one of my bell peppers. It's King of the North variety, and very healthy otherwise with a couple of small fruit on it. But some of the leaves have been completely eaten down to the stem, and I can't seem to find the culprit! It looks like caterpillar damage, but I did a thorough search of this plant today, and couldn't find any out of place nasties. There are what look like black droppings on the stem of the plant... can earwigs do damage like this? I've seen a few of them in the area...

This plant is in a hoop house, which stays closed on cloudy days and at night. It's one of three KOTN plants in there, but the only one being eaten. There are four poblano plants in there as well, which aren't being effected either. Any ideas?

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ottawapepper

Looking at your picture my first thought was earwigs.

Try sprinkling some diatomaceous earth around the bases.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 8:42AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

kpn ,

I also think it is EARWIGS>
I am also in PNW. We have a lot of slugs and Earwigs. But peppers are munched by Earwigs. The patter shows it. Slugs do not make holes, the start from the edge.

To find out: Lift the pot. They should hiding right there. Just kill them. They also hide under the stone, cracks.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 11:48AM
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woohooman

I'd say MAYBE earwigs(with the holes in the pic) but with the info you provided, I'd go with caterpillars, like you said.

"Black droppings and chewed all the way down" totally points to caterpillar.

Check again... they totally blend in! In the meantime, spray with BT K variant. Totally organic, will only kill caterpillars, and available at almost any garden center.

Kevin

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:14PM
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Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)

Thanks for the tips, guys. Searched the plant again today and still couldn't find any caterpillars, though I did kill several earwigs that were hiding under the pot. I have rocks in the hoop house for thermal mass, maybe I should go through those too and see if more earwigs rear their little ugly heads. I also noticed that I'm developing an aphid problem on one of the other plants. stupid bugs >_

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 5:00PM
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Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)

Well I'll be.... It was over 90 here today, so I didn't bother to put the cover back over the peppers. Almost midnight right now and still 71. Seeing as how the top will be down tonight, I decided to go out and have a look at the peppers under cover of darkness with the flashlight. And lookee what I found. Him and several of his buddies. I know the picture isn't too good, but any ideas what it could be?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 3:00AM
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Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)

Another pic of the culprit, caught red handed. Moves like an inch worm.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 3:02AM
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kclost

Not sure about the worm. But if I'm not mistaken you have aphids all over your plant as well. All those little small white spots... Try to get your hands on some live lady bugs from a nursery or order by mail.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:09AM
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esox07 (4b)

kclost: Good catch. It does look like there are aphids. However, they would not be the culprits of the eaten leaf material.

Kpn.Kardif: I hope you figure out what those worms are and if they did the damage. Keep an eye open for those horn work things. I have never had them, but I have seen several postings of them on here and they can eat a lot of plant leaf material in a short time. They are usually only found at night.
Good luck, let us know when you figure it out for sure.
Bruce

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:19AM
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woohooman

Not sure if it's a very young hornworm or a looper. Doesn't matter.. it's a caterpillar and caterpillars eat foliage. Time to get some BT K variant.

Kevin

This post was edited by woohooman on Wed, Jul 2, 14 at 13:46

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 12:09PM
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Kpn.Kardif(8 PNW)

Oh, there are definitely aphids. There are also many half eaten aphid corpses among them, from the half dozen or so ladybugs I've relocated from other parts of my yard to my peppers. There are, what I think and hope, are ladybug eggs on a couple of the leaves, small yellow clusters. Watching them closely to see what happens.

Thanks Bruce and Kevin. You're right, it doesn't matter what it is, it just needs to go away. Are hornworms prevalent in the Pacific Northwest? I went back out tonight and found several more of them. Hornworms have a weird.. well.. horn looking thing on top of their heads, right? These don't seem to have that particular feature. Along with them, I found a few earwigs on the plants. All were promptly squished. I have some neem oil on order, which hopefully should be here within the next few days. Now that I think about it though, I'm a little hesitant to use it near the ladybugs. Hmm...

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 4:23AM
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esox07 (4b)

I dont think insecticidal soap would hurt the mature lady bugs, but it might have an affect on the eggs.
Bruce

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 10:15AM
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woohooman

Hornworms are prevalent everywhere. Generally, it's the tomato in northern latitudes and tobacco in southern.

You're right. Hornworms have horns on their rear ends. That's why I said I wasn't sure if it was a very young hornworm or some other caterpillar -- I've only seen mature ones.

Neem oil OR soap will not be very effective on caterpillars though. And, like Bruce mentioned, just may harm other beneficials or their young.

Like I mentioned above, use Bacillus thuringiensis (K variant).

It's a bacteria that only affects caterpillars, is available at almost any garden center, is cheap, and works!

For the aphids, use water blasts to wash them off. when they hit the ground, they die. But they reproduce at such rapid rates that you have to stay diligent. Water blasts every 3-4 days in the morn or evening usually keeps populations manageable.

Kevin

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 12:19PM
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