Plant Care

Holes In Pepper Plant Leaves: [6 Expert Reasons Unveiled]

Many gardeners, including myself, are faced with many problems when it comes to growing peppers. Even if the pepper plants are grown on open ground or in a greenhouse, a lot of pests attack them, eating the leaves and causing holes in them.

Holes in pepper plant leaves are caused by a certain variety of pests including flea beetles, slugs, cutworms, aphids, and Colorado potato beetles. These pests create small, round holes in leaves by chewing on them and it is important to identify them in order to choose the appropriate control method.

Why are Holes in Pepper Leaves:
3. Colorado Potato Beetle
4.Beet Armyworms
5.Scoop Caterpillars
6.Flea Beetles

If holes appear in leaves of pepper grown in an open garden or in a greenhouse, it means that pests are present. Who eats pepper leaves and how to get rid of these pests, I will show you in this article.


Slugs belong to terrestrial molluscs. They are similar in structure to snails, only they do not have shells. In the wild, they play the role of a natural regulator of the ecosystem of forests and fields.

The nature of damage to pepper plants is as follows: rounded holes are gnawed right in the center of the pepper leaves (rarely along the edges). The presence of slugs on the site is also given out by traces of mucus and excrement.

A slug eats absolutely everything. The ideal environment for these parasites is moisture and warmth. Therefore, if the climate in your greenhouse is exactly like this, then, most likely, the holes on the pepper leaves were made by slugs.

Often, slugs destroy almost the entire crop, and not only pepper. Holes in the leaves are only the beginning of their feast, often only veins remain from the leaves.

In the oral cavity of the slug there is a large amount of chitin (teeth), with the help of which it grinds food. 

If even rounded holes appeared in the pepper leaves, and the edges were evenly joined, as if they were leveled with a ruler, this is a sure sign of the presence of slugs in the area. A slug can also feed on pepper fruits, leaving characteristic marks on them.

Slugs crawl out at night to feed. During the day, they prefer to sleep in cool and damp conditions. For example, under leaves or under a stone. Slugs can be easily harvested by hand. You can also use special traps for these pests.

How to treat holes in pepper leaves caused by Slugs

  1. To get started, put things in order on the site – remove all weeds, mow the grass and destroy heaps of old grass and any plant debris.
  2. Make grooves in the honey in rows of plantings and fill them with lime, ash, ground black pepper or tobacco dust. Through such a “ditch” the slug will not get over it.
  3. It is advisable to cover the pepper with a film. Slugs crawl under it at night, and during the day they die from unbearable heat.
  4. Also ,during the day you can water the slugs with water at a temperature of 104-122 °F (40-50 °C).
  5. Sprinkle the soil with quicklime after a rain or heavy watering when the slugs start to move. Lime burns the abdomen of the mollusks, and they die.
Our tip!
It is not easy to defeat slug pests due to the fact that their meal usually takes place at night. It is not easy to detect slugs during the day. The most effective and therefore popular method of slug control in the greenhouse is their manual collection.


The main signs of the presence of aphids on the pepper leaves:

  1. deformation and wilting of leaf plates;
  2. the appearance of burned rounded holes on leaves and pepper fruit;
  3. the appearance of through holes in the leaf;
  4. shedding of leaves;
  5. the presence of a sticky sweet coating on the leaves;
  6. the appearance of black grains, which indicates the development of sooty fungus.

Aphids are the most common pest that affects pepper plants not only in open ground, but also in greenhouses (indoor cultivation). Black and green aphid colonies usually settle on the inside of the pepper plant leaves, feeding on them.

Aphids secrete a sweet, sticky sap, covering the pepper leaves with it, which makes photosynthesis impossible. In addition, this substance attracts ants, which will also not mind nibbling on the pepper fruits, especially if they already have holes in them.

The holes that the aphids gnaw through the pepper leaves are small and do not exceed 1 mm in diameter. However, when there are a lot of such holes, they are able to merge into large holes of irregular shape, and in extreme cases, the pepper leaves can die, after which the death of the entire bush comes.

Aphids are extremely prolific, quickly forming huge colonies. In peppers, will attack and eat not only the leaves but also the pepper fruits.

It is known that aphids and ants are friends, live together. The aphid treats the ants with sweet secretions, and because of this the ants take care of it, acting as shepherds and carriers of aphids from bush to bush.

However, aphids are able to fly to neighboring bushes on their own, usually settling on the undersides of leaves. Fighting aphids, you must simultaneously fight ants.

How to treat holes caused by Aphids

  1. The natural enemies of aphids are ladybugs, lacewings and hoverflies. A ladybug can eat up to 100 adult aphids per day. To attract this “savior”, plant dill, cumin, coriander and fennel on the beds with pepper. Containers with wood shavings will attract earwigs – a big “connoisseur” of aphids.
  2. Follow the agricultural practices of growing peppers. Make the optimal portions of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and trace elements. Good air circulation and timely watering make plants healthier and less attractive to aphids.
  3. As home remedies, I recommend tobacco and wood ash. Pour a glass of wood ash and tobacco dust into a 10-liter bucket and fill it with hot water. After a day, strain the solution and add a tablespoon of liquid soap. Spray the pepper plants with this mixture every morning.

3.Potato Beetle

One of the most common plant pests in the world, native to northeastern Mexico, it is popularly known as the “Colorado” because it has become a scourge for potato fields in the US state of Colorado.

It is not the Colorado potato beetle that makes holes in pepper leaves, but its larvae. The insect lays a large number of bright orange eggs on the inside and outside of leaves. During the season, the female can lay up to 1,000 eggs. To date, more than 100 products have been developed to treat the Colorado potato beetle.

First of all, after potatoes, he visits eggplant, then comes the turn of tomatoes and peppers. The Colorado potato beetle can live up to three years, has a size of up to 12 mm, its striped color is well known to everyone.

The larvae of the beetle are painted in a pinkish-brown color and are also quite large. Both larvae and adults are equally voracious.

Colorado beetle larvae and adults burrow into the soil to a depth of 10 cm and hibernate there. The life cycle of an adult can last from 1 to 3 years, depending on environmental conditions.

In the initial stages, the beetle larva gnaws holes in the central parts of the leaf, then eats the edges. In the end, bare petioles remain on the bushes.

The holes in the pepper leaves of Colorado beetle larva are larger than in aphids. Very quickly, the leaf completely becomes unusable and dies.

The difficulty of fighting this pest is that it quickly adapts to chemicals and becomes insensitive to them.

How to treat pepper leaves attacked by Potato Beetle

  1. Systematically collect oviposition, larvae and beetles from pepper bushes and destroy them by flooding with kerosene or formalin. Do not crush the bugs – the smell attracts “avengers” from other areas.
  2. Plant garlic and calendula near pepper bushes – their smell repels the Colorado potato beetle.
  3. Carry out a high hilling of pepper seedlings (with backfilling of the lower leaves) during the ovipositor period (mid-summer).
  4. A glass of wood ash and 150-200 g of crushed wormwood pour 10 liters of hot water. Let it brew for 2-3 hours and strain. After that, spray the pepper bushes with the solution.

4.Beet Armyworms

Spodoptera exigua is a moth from the Noctuidae family (they hide during the day and come out at night) that appears mainly on herbaceous crops (tomato, pepper, melon, cotton, etc.), vines and ornamental species. They usually develop between 3 and 6 generations per year.

The adults appear in spring, mate and the females lay their eggs in groups (in packs of between 10 and 250 eggs), preferably on the underside of the leaves. They then cover the spawn with scales from their abdomen and other substances that serve as protection.

The eggs hatch after a few days and hatch into small worms that gradually change in color from yellow, green, brown, or black. The caterpillars begin to feed on pepper plant leaves, at first, in a gregarious manner (they help and support each other for the common benefit).

As a result of their feeding, they cause holes and defoliation by biting the pepper plant leaves. When the caterpillar is small, it destroys the underside but respects the epidermis of the leaf. 

As it grows, its jaws are larger and it can now completely eat the pepper leaves as well as flowers and fruits, causing substantial damage to crops if they are not controlled correctly. Populations tend to be highest in the fall.

How to treat pepper holes caused by Beet Armyworms

To treat pepper leaves attacked by Beet Armyworms, you can use organic or chemical pesticides. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt-azaiwi strain) and spinosad are natural insecticides that are effective against young armyworms and don’t harm the environment.

You can also use chemical pesticides such as pyrethroids, carbamates, and neonicotinoids, but be sure to follow the instructions carefully and use them only as a last resort.

Additionally, you can manually remove the worms by handpicking them off the plants and dropping them into a container of soapy water to kill them. It is important to monitor the plants regularly for any signs of reinfestation and continue to treat as necessary.

5.Scoop Caterpillars

Noctuidae Latreille is a night moth with a wingspan of about 5 cm. The length of an adult insect is 18-22 mm. The upper wings can be brown-gray, yellow-gray or black with stripes and spots. The lower wings are light gray with veins and a dark border.

Gnawing scoop caterpillars are nocturnal pests known to feed on the leaves of a variety of plants, including peppers, and can cause damage to the foliage by chewing irregular holes in the leaves.

Scoop caterpillars typically feed on the lower leaves of pepper plants, but as they grow and mature, they may move up to the upper leaves and cause more significant damage.

Signs of scoop caterpillar damage include irregularly shaped holes in the pepper leaves, as well as ragged or chewed edges.

The larvae are thick caterpillars with a gray or gray-green color, up to 5 cm long. The pupae are red or yellow-brown in color, 1.5-2 cm in size.

The cutworm hibernates in the caterpillar phase in the ground at a depth of 15-30 cm. In spring, when the soil warms up to +10C, the caterpillars move to the topsoil and pupate. 

Butterflies actively fly from the end of May to the end of June. They do not harm plants, but only feed on the nectar of flowers and contribute to their pollination.

After 2-3 days, females begin to lay their eggs on the underside of leaves, plant debris and soil surface. On average, one scoop per season lays 400-500 eggs. 

Depending on the environmental conditions, the larvae are born after 3-24 days and hide under the ground, and crawl out to feed at night.

Scoop larvae have gnawing mouthparts, with which they skeletonize pepper leaves, gnaw off flowers and eat fruit from the inside. Bats damage the base of plants, which can lead to their death. Caterpillars are very voracious, in just one night it can harm 10 pepper plants leaves.

How to treat pepper leaves attacked by Scoop Caterpillars


  • Plowing or digging the soil to a depth of 15-20 cm after harvesting the crop to destroy wintering caterpillars;
  • Destruction of weeds in and around the site, as scoops live on them;
  • Marigolds and calendula well scare away butterflies from pepper. They can be planted around the site and will be a barrier to many pepper pests.

To catch the scoop caterpillar, you can create baits from fermented juice or kvass, syrup or jam. Place containers with this liquid in the evening in your greenhouse or garden and in the morning you will find butterflies on them.

Very popular for spraying infusion of tomato tops. To prepare it, you need to take 3-4 kg of tomato plants, pour 10 liters of water and boil for half an hour. Then dilute the broth with water in a ratio of 1: 3.

To scare off the scoop from the pepper, you can spray the pepper with a solution of wormwood. To do this, take 1 kg of crushed wormwood, pour 3 liters of water on and boil for 15-20 minutes. After cooling, the decoction can be used immediately.

A solution of soap and ash is also suitable for treating crops. Mix 10 liters of water in a bucket with 2 cups of wood ash and 30 g of soap.

Trichogramma is an entomophage, which is used to combat insects that lead a hidden lifestyle. This parasite settles in the eggs of the scoop pest and thus destroys them.

6.Flea Beetles

Have you ever noticed small, dark-colored beetles on your pepper plants? Well, from my experience, these could be flea beetle larvae, and they can be quite destructive.

These are flea beetle larvae that live in the soil and eat the roots of pepper plants, leading to their death. They create small holes in the pepper leaves, which can weaken the pepper plant and damage its overall health.

The larvae are light yellow in color, about 3 cm long and have three pairs of legs. They like to live in places with moist soil, crawling into the depths of the earth. They also like acidic soils, on which wheatgrass, quinoa and thistle grow.

The full development of the flea beetle from egg to adult takes 4-5 years. After wintering, females fly out in spring in April-May and lay eggs. Only one female is able to lay about 200 eggs per year. 

After 21-28 days, larvae 1.5-2.2 mm in size emerge from the eggs. Initially, their body is almost transparent, and the head is yellow in color. In this stage, the insect lives from 2 to 5 years. 

Due to the fact that they hibernate in the ground at a depth of 1-2 meters, they are not afraid of frost. Wireworms are able to withstand temperature drops down to 21-25°F (-6-10°C).

In the first year, the larvae are inactive and feed on humus, and the next year they become dangerous pests that eat everything in their path.

After active feeding, the larvae pupate in the ground and after 14-21 days adult insects emerge from them, which immediately switch to wintering and fly out the following spring.

Flea Beetle larvae are an omnivorous dangerous pest that lives in the ground and eats up the roots of pepper, which leads to stunting of plants. These pests of pepper seedlings damage delicate roots, which can lead to death.

How to treat pepper leaves attacked by Flea Beetles


  • Crop rotation. An excellent intermediate plant is mustard and leguminous plants;
  • Sowing marigolds or calendula around the site. These flowers secrete specific substances that repel many pests, including the wireworm;
  • Destruction of weeds on the site, especially thistle and leek, since the pest is very fond of their roots;

Dig up the soil for the winter – caterpillars hibernate at a depth of up to 8 cm. Therefore, loosening and digging row spacing after pupation reduces the number of pests.

Build homemade traps from cut plastic bottles and hang them up to 1 m above the ground. Pour molasses to a third of the total height of the bottle. For its preparation, any fermented jam or fruit juice is suitable.

Use preparations that contain mushrooms, which, when they enter the body of a wireworm, begin to grow actively, thereby mummifying the pest. 

A solution of these preparations is applied in spring to moist soil and the soil is dug up. Application should not be carried out in direct sunlight, as the preparations do not tolerate ultraviolet radiation.

Introduction of predatory nematodes into the soil. This parasite enters the cavities of the wireworm and releases its bacteria, killing it.

Table with Key Takeaways on what causes Holes in Pepper Plant Leaves

PestDescriptionPepper Leaves Damage
Flea BeetlesSmall, shiny beetles having a dark-colored (black, brown, or bronze).Flea beetles create small, round holes in leaves by chewing on them. They can make the leaves appear stippled or speckled, which can affect photosynthesis and reduce the plant’s ability to produce energy.
CutwormsThe larvae of several moth species, gray or brown in color.Cutworms can cause irregularly-shaped holes in leaves by chewing on them. They may also cut through plant stems near the soil surface, which can cause plants to wilt and die.
AphidsSmall, soft-bodied insects that often cluster on the undersides of leaves.Aphids can cause yellowish-green or white spots on leaves and stems, which can lead to distorted growth or curling of leaves.
SlugsSoft-bodied, slimy mollusks that can vary in color from brown to gray to black.Slugs can create irregularly-shaped holes in leaves by chewing on them. They typically feed at night and hide in dark, damp places during the day.
Scoop CaterpillarsThe larvae of several moth specie typically green, brown, or gray in color.Scoop caterpillars use their large mandibles to “scoop” out portions of leaves, creating irregularly-shaped holes.
Colorado BeetleSmall, yellow and black striped beetles with a distinctive pattern of yellow and black stripes on their wing covers.Colorado beetles create irregularly-shaped holes in leaves by chewing on them. They may also defoliate entire plants if left unchecked, which can significantly reduce crop yield. They are most commonly found on plants in the Solanaceae family (such as peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes).

How do you treat holes in pepper plants?

PestControl MeasuresApplication MethodApplication Rate/Weight
AphidsInsecticidal soap, neem oil, pyrethrinSpray or drench leaves and stems.2-3% solution for soap, 0.5-1% solution for neem oil.
Flea BeetlesBeneficial insects (ladybugs, lacewings), insecticidal soap, spinosad.Spray onto pepper leaves and stems.Follow product instructions
CutwormsHandpicking, applying Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), diatomaceous earth.Apply a thin layer of the powder around the base of the pepper plants or directly on the leaves.4-6 oz per 100 square feet for Bt, light dusting for diatomaceous earth
CaterpillarsHandpicking, applying Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), neem oil.Spray or dust pepper leaves and stems.4-8 oz per 100 square feet for Bt, 0.5-1% solution for neem oil
SlugsHandpicking, setting up beer traps, applying iron phosphate bait.Apply to base of pepper plant or directly onto leaves and stems.Follow product instructions

How To Prevent Holes in Pepper Plants

The main measure of prevention, which allows you to protect yourself from pests, is high-quality soil preparation in the autumn-spring period. After harvesting, the fallen leaves, weeds and their roots should be removed from the plot.

 The preventive set of measures includes the following actions:

  1. Mandatory disinfection of planting material and soil, for example, with a solution of manganese;
  2. Choose a zone on the site that is well lit, warm, has protection from the wind, especially through;
  3. Remember crop rotation , do not plant pepper after potatoes, zucchini, it is better to choose a place after greens, onions, beans or green manure;
  4. Be sure to think about which plants will coexist next to the pepper;
  5. Observe the watering regime , do not overfill the soil beds, do not allow stagnation, every 6-7 days is the optimal irrigation interval;
  6. Spray with safe insect prevention products, such as a solution of a soap solution or serum;
  7. Periodically look through the pepper bushes not only from above, but also turning the leaves over, insects can hide there;
  8. If you notice larvae or adult pests, then you should immediately start processing ;
  9. Loosen the soil to a depth of 5 cm near the bushes and 10 cm between the rows;
  10. After loosening, the soil must be mulched: with peat mixed with sand and ash, if slugs appear, with compost if Colorado beetles and aphids are present.

What is eating my pepper plant leaves?

There are several pests that can eat pepper plant leaves, including caterpillars, flea beetles, slugs, snails, spider mites, aphids, and armyworms. You can determine which pest is causing the damage by closely examining the leaves for signs such as droppings or slime trails. Once you have identified the pest, you can take appropriate measures to control it, such as using insecticides or natural remedies, or manually removing the pests by hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I identify the pest causing holes in my pepper plant leaves?

Proper identification of the pest is key to choosing the right control method. Look for physical characteristics such as size, color, and shape of the pest. You can also look for signs such as excrement or damage to leaves or stems. In some cases, it may be necessary to consult with a pest expert to identify the pest.

Are holes in pepper plant leaves harmful to the plant?

Small holes in pepper plant leaves may not harm the plant significantly. However, severe infestations can lead to defoliation, reduced photosynthesis, and lower crop yields. In addition, holes in leaves can provide an entry point for other pests or diseases, which can further harm the plant.

Can I eat peppers from plants with holes in the leaves?

If the holes in the leaves are caused by a minor pest infestation, the peppers are generally safe to eat. However, if the infestation is severe and has led to significant leaf damage or the use of pesticides, it is best to avoid consuming the peppers.

Do I Need To Throw Out My Pepper Plant if I Notice Holes in the Leaves?

No, you do not necessarily need to throw out your pepper plant if you notice holes in the leaves. Holes in pepper plant leaves are a common symptom of pest damage and can be treated with appropriate pest control measures to prevent further damage and ensure the plant’s health.

Andreea Tapu

Andreea TAPU is a passionate gardener with over 5 years of experience in cultivating a wide variety of plants and flowers in her garden. As the author and creator of, she is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and expertise with others, providing practical tips and advice to help gardeners of all levels achieve success and enjoyment in their gardening pursuits.