Identify, monitor, manage the destructive pepper weevil

The pepper weevil (Anthonomus eugenii Cano) is a destructive invasive insect pest of cultivated peppers in the southeastern United States. Adult pepper weevils feed on fruit and leaf buds and lay eggs on flowers, buds, and fruits. Larvae also feed inside the fruit, causing premature fruit-drop and often cause significant crop losses. In farm settings, entire infested fields are often abandoned because of concerns in shipping infested fruit to markets. Under heavy infestation, the entire pepper crop must be removed because the infestation poses a serious threat to future pepper crops.

Because of its minute size and cryptic nature, the weevil can escape inspections of fruits and plants at ports of entry, making it difficult to control and manage. Adult beetles are oval shape, 2.0–3.5 mm long, 1.5–1.8 mm wide, mahogany brown to black in color, with a strongly-arched body and a long, stout beak. They are mostly covered with small scales, their antennae are long and markedly expanded at the tip, and each leg bears a sharp tooth. Pepper weevils attack all species of pepper (Capsicum spp.), as well as nightshades (Solanum spp.), including eggplant fruits. The American black nightshade, S. americanum, is an important alternative host plant.

To avoid a weevil plague, start by using healthy and pepper weevil free nursery plants. Avoid carry-over of weevils from one season to the next. This is a problem where peppers are cut back to produce a second crop or if crop residue is left standing after harvest. If weevils infest early in the season, begin controls at first bloom to prevent an early build-up of pepper weevil

Biological control of pepper weevil is accomplished using two important parasitoids of pepper weevils. These include Catolaccus hunteri Crawford and Bracon mellitor Say.

Best agricultural practices include plowing under the pepper plants as soon as the crop is harvested for pepper weevil control. The destruction of wild hosts, such as black nightshade and whitetip nightshade, in and around the field is also recommended as these plants can serve as a reservoir for the pepper weevil to invade peppers in the coming season.

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