Growing Bell Peppers – Insect infestation


I have an allotment garden and last season had success growing pepper plants and getting them to flower and fruit but a black bug seemed to burrow into my plants and destroy much of the fruit. Other gardeners at my allotment had the same problem and we are wondering what to do.

1. Can anyone guess the black bug and how it got into the plants? from the soil? from the air?
2. Any suggestions about how to prevent this problem?
3. Is there any companion planting solution?
4. Organic insecticide?
I don’t have a photo.
Thank you,
Claudia Wood


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners about the problematic “black bug” that was destroying your peppers last summer.

Even though you were not able to include a photo for identification, from what you have described, the beastly black bug was most likely a Pepper Weevil (Anthonomus eugenii). There’s nothing more frustrating and upsetting than watching your healthy vegetable plants/fruits succumb to some unknown insect just when they are starting to bear fruit.

Symptoms – Feeding damage to foliage, buds and tender young fruit pods; larvae feed within buds and fruit; older fruit misshapen and discolored; buds and fruit may drop from plant; adult weevil is a small black beetle; larvae are small cream-white grubs with brown heads which can reach 0.6 cm (0.25 in) in length when mature.

Peppers are the preferred host of these destructive weevils, however, they will also feed on other plants in the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes & eggplant). Try to grow these other vegetables some distance from your peppers. You mention these weevils affected plants of other gardeners at your allotment so it would be difficult to pinpoint how they were ‘introduced’ into the gardens. However, there are steps that can be taken to prevent them from becoming a problem in the upcoming growing season.

First of all, they would probably not have survived the winter in the ground – “outdoor overwintering populations are not yet known to occur in Ontario…” (see OMAFRA link below). Nevertheless, weevils can be introduced on transplants grown in a greenhouse where weevils might be present. You can monitor for their presence in your garden with the use of yellow sticky tape traps.  Checking the traps regularly for weevils, as well as other insects, would give you a good idea on how to proceed with a control if necessary,

To sum up:

  • Grow your peppers in a different area in your allotment, if possible.
  • Remove any nightshade plants growing in close proximity to the pepper plants – tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant.
  • Immediately remove any dropped fruit from soil surface.
  • Use organically acceptable control methods which include insecticide sprays/solutions of Pyrethrin. [Organic gardening practices can include Insecticide solutions which include a substance called Pyrethrin, if it is permitted for sale in your local area – product instructions must be followed carefully & exactly). Such products can be purchased at your local nursery or garden centre.
  • Destroy pepper crop residue immediately after harvest.
Below you will find a link to some companion planting suggestions.

With some of these suggestions, you should be able to successfully grow your peppers (and other veggies) this upcoming season. It’s clear that you are very observant about what is happening in your garden. If you have any more issues and questions about growing plants, please don’t hesitate to contact us again.

Happy gardening!