My dad is an avid gardener in Scarborough and has been trying to grow hot peppers for several years now. The plant is in a very sunny area in his garden and is quite healthy with many peppers. However, once the peppers start to turn red, a small white worm permeates the pepper, eats the seeds and ultimately ruins the pepper. Is there something he can do to prevent this? The soil is very healthy as he uses lots of compost. I have sent a picture of the discarded peppers eaten by the worms, but can also send a picture of the plant and one specific pepper that we picked from the plant.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for your question, description and the photo, which is very helpful. It is certainly disappointing when you come so close to a harvest and then find this type of crop damage. There are many insects that can feed on pepper plants. The Pepper Weevil (Anthonomus eugenii) and Pepper Maggot (Zonosemata electa) have white larvae, such as the ‘worms’ you describe, and cause damage to pepper fruit. You may be dealing with one of these pests. Both insects lay eggs implanted (they bore a hole) in the wall of the pepper fruit. The larvae feed within the fruit until they are ready to exit.
Organic management can include looking for boring holes made by the adult insects in young fruit and removing those peppers. Clean up all of the dropped fruit and discard it with the City Yard Waste collection, not in your compost pile. Ultimately, rotating crops is recommended – plant something else in that spot or leave it unplanted the next year. Note that the weevil can survive on other plants in the same genus as peppers (e.g., tomato, eggplant), so be sure to plant something from a different genus in the space – like cucumbers or beans.
The following resources may be helpful:
Integrated Pest Management: A Toronto Master Gardener’s Guide
Controlling Insects Without Pesticides: A Toronto Master Gardener’s Guide
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs – Insect Pests of Pepper Plants