Pepper Maggot Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Pepper Maggots

Pepper maggots are small pests, which, in most instances, are barely noticeable. Especially for wholesalers, it is common to sell their products without realizing that the eggs or the larvae are still present. They can scar the crop and can leave visible damages. To prevent infestation and economic loss, especially for commercial growers, it is critical to be familiar with how to get rid of pepper maggots.

Pepper maggot refers exclusively to a pest that is in its larval stage. The color is translucent white when it is young. As it feeds and matures, on the other hand, it turns to yellow. It has a pointed head end and can reach a maximum length of.5 inch. The adult pepper maggot fly, meanwhile, has an average length of 3/8 inch, yellow in color, and comes with clear wings. They lay elliptical eggs that develop shallow depressions as the host fruit grows.

Pepper Maggot

Pepper Maggot Has a Pointed Head End

Pepper Maggot’s Habitat

Pepper maggots feed on the core of their host fruit for a period of about 16 days. Before harvest, they will exit the fruit, fall off the ground, and start with the pupation stage. Usually, it is in July when they fully transform into adults and they will lay their eggs on young pods. They are also common in any decaying material or part of the host plants. There is only one generation of pepper maggots in a year, which makes it not as much of a problem unlike other pests with more generations.

Identifying Pepper Maggot’s Damage

Plants Affected

As the name implies, it is pretty much obvious that pepper is the most common host for this pest. Aside from this, it also affects tomato and eggplant, among others. They specifically grow on crops that belong to the Solanaceae family.

Symptoms

Watch out for the following signs, which will be common indications of the presence of pepper maggots:

  • Among others, the first symptoms of infestation is the appearance of small elliptical holes with an average length of .02 inch and width of .01 inch. It is too small to be seen by the naked eye. These holes are from the female’s ovipositor.
  • When the fruit enlarges, this also makes the hole more visible. There will be shallow depressions, and in the end, this makes the pepper unmarketable.
  • Rotting and premature ripening are also common indicators of the presence of pepper maggots. They will discolor and external tunnels might appear. This makes the fruit weak and will eventually cause it to fall off.

Results of Infestation

Pepper maggots are often confused with European corn borers. The two are different pests and they cause different infestations in their host. For pepper maggots, they feed inside the fruit. There is little evidence of external damage, making it more challenging to determine if they are already heavily infesting your crops. They create tunneling and in severe cases, will lead to an economic loss. Commercial growers may also end up in frustration as in most situations, the damages will not be evident upon harvest. Since the attack is mostly internal, a quick visual inspection may not be enough to determine the impacts of the pest on the host crop.

Pepper Maggot Damage

Pepper Maggot Feeds Inside the Fruit

How to Get Rid of Pepper Maggots

Natural and Organic Solutions

For an effective way to eliminate pepper maggots without resorting to toxic solutions, the following are some of the best things to do:

  • Handpicking is one of the solutions that you have to consider. This is an exhausting task, which is why it is good only if you have to deal with a small area. Take out the larva or eggs that you can see on the ground. This can be quite difficult as the maggots feed inside the fruits, and hence, in most cases, you will not see them. Also, because of their small size, you will need to be patient when resorting to this solution.
  • Rather than manually removing the pepper maggots from the host plant, a better alternative is to be sure to discard the trap properly. You can burn it or soak in water with bleach to be sure that you will kill the maggots.
  • Aside from sticky traps, you might also want to consider hanging stills-style trap. They use liquid ammonium hydroxide as a bait to attract adult flies, and hence, preventing them from laying eggs.
  • Setting up trap crops, such as hot pepper, will also help. This is more of a preventive measure, but will also help in elimination. The trap crop will lure the pepper maggots, and hence, keeping them away and sparing the main crop from possible damage.
  • Another natural solution that will be effective is sprinkling diatomaceous earth on the area with the host plant. It is best to do this from July to August, which is also the season where the adults will lay their eggs. It will kill the pest before it can wreak havoc.
  • Vegetable gardens will also benefit from using rock phosphate. It is an excellent way to reduce the population of pepper maggots and to positively improve the yield of garden crops. Its dust form should be applied in the spring. For the best outcomes, use at least ten pounds for every 100 square feet.

Chemical Solutions

In many commercial plantations, it is common for growers to resort to the use of pesticides with toxic chemicals to regulate and eliminate the population of pepper maggots. To succeed with this method, it is important to have the perfect timing of the application. Nonetheless, keep in mind that broad spectrum pesticides are killing not only pepper maggots, but also natural predators. Some of the active ingredients in pesticides for pepper maggots include acephate, endosulfan, esfenvalerate, cyfluthrin, and permethrin, among others. Meanwhile, some of the most common brands that contain these ingredients include Acephate 97UP, Thionex 50W, Asana XL, Baythroid 2, and Permethrin 3.2 EC.

How to Prevent Pepper Maggots

Among other things, one of the best preventive measures is field sanitation. The adults are attracted to decaying vegetation and rotting pepper. They will find shelter in such places and this is also where they can lay their eggs. With this, getting rid of litter and keeping the area clean is one of the simplest ways to discourage their presence. If there are infested fruits, be sure to destroy and discard them as soon as possible. It will also be good to plant trap crops. To add, crop rotation will be an ideal solution to prevent the infestation of pepper maggots.

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