Insect Control For Pepper Plants
Here’s my stance on bug control – Give nature a chance and if necessary, go organic. Use the least invasive measures possible as to not disturb the beneficial insects (like bees). Most of the time, nature finds a way to balance out. Remember that insects are a part of gardening, and no garden is insect free. Put things into perspective – they’re just vegetables. Is this a hobby for you? Do you want to risk applying dangerous chemicals to something you plan on eating? Is it worth it?
A couple of insects are fine, don’t freak out. But if you find yourself with an infestation on your hands – let’s talk tactics.
Research the Insect
First step – find out what you’re dealing with. Sometimes, the insect isn’t actually harmful to your plant at all, so might as well let them be. They also might be predator insects keeping your undesirable insects under control! Last year, I had an invasion of Flatid Planthoppers. These furry little critters like to jump in your face if you try to squish them! But they’re actually harmless.
Try Googling the description of the insect to try and identify it. You can also try posting on one of the “pepper” Facebook groups.
Did you buy any plants at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or any of the big box outlets? It’s very common for plants at these stores to be infested with pests that are waiting to make a new home in your garden. If you intend to purchase any plants be sure to look under the leaves!
Aphids & Ants on Hot Pepper Plants
Aphids are usually common where I live. I also have tons of ants and earwigs too. Ants and aphids have a symbiotic relationship so the key is to stop them both.
Let Nature Take Its CourseIf possible, wait it out to see if natural predators arrive and restore balance to your bug problem.
Water spray. Get your garden hose and spray off the bugs. Take one hand and push down the leaves on one side of the plant exposing the undersides and spray the leaves, knocking the bugs and eggs off. Your hand will also act as a brace to prevent the plant from bending over too much. This is a great first measure and it may be all you need.
You can purchase predator insects to release on your plants. Ladybugs and Lacewings are aphids’ worst nightmare. You’ll likely need to visit a specialty shop (like an Agway) or go online to purchase them. You can also try your luck at buying the larvae to hatch your own. There are special instructions on using these insects, like needing to release them at dusk to prevent them from flying away. Be sure to read up. Google’s your friend here. I also do not disturb the spiders or their webs as much as possible.
Research the life cycle of the bug. Some bugs like the Fourlined Plant bug only stick around for a short while, so sometimes it’s better to just wait them out.
What I use….
For ants, I like to use these stakes in my raised beds. Just make sure the liquid inside does not spill out onto the soil. And make sure rain cannot get inside.
For grow bags on a table, I spray the table legs with Home Defense insecticide (make sure the spray does not come in contact with the plant or bags at all). I do not spray the table tops. This stuff works pretty good around house foundations too!
I also use a soap spray on the plants directly. Read below.
Some people say the organic stuff doesn’t work. I say that it does, it just takes more work.
Get yourself some Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Peppermint Castile soap. Use 1 tablespoon of the castile soap per quart of water (4 TB per gallon of water). You can use a clean, unused spray bottle, misting bottle, or for larger gardens a pump sprayer, which is what I use. I really like the Roundup pump sprayer. The nozzle is awesome! Make sure to label the pump sprayer and don’t use anything else in it (like Roundup lol).
Make sure you spray under the leaves of your plants. This is where the critters are hiding. Spray everything, the dirt, the pots, leaves, etc. The peppermint will deter them for a short while.
It’s important to apply towards the end of the day. You don’t want the water to allow the sun to burn your plants and it’s also when most of the beneficial insects (bees) are not around.
Reapply once a week until the presence of bugs are diminished. And/or of course after a heavy rain.
If the tactics mentioned above do not solve your bug problem, these options below are available, listed in order of least to most potent.
Diatomaceous Earth is another product that can be used to kill soft-bodied insects. It is a granular powder-like substance that you sprinkle on the soil. I recommend getting food-grade and OMRI listed for organic gardening.
Neem Oil is another popular natural insecticide. Harmful to bees and other beneficial insects.
Pyrethrin Spray is a topical insecticide that you spray directly on the plant. Similar to Neem oil, it washes away so reapplication is necessary.
And finally, the nuclear option – a systemic insecticide. This works by being absorbed by your plant and staying in the tissue providing the ultimate protection. Application is typically applied only once per season. Read the instructions carefully and pay attention as to when it is safe to harvest your food after application.