What Is Eating My Pepper Plants At Night? (6 Common Pests)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

Are you finding damaged leaves, missing plants, or damaged growing peppers in your garden? There could be a few types of pesky pests that have taken to your pepper plants. Don’t ignore the signs of pest damage that can quickly take over your garden.

Most of the time, these are pepper hornworms, pepper weevils, and caterpillars, but it’s good to know what could be happening and what you can do to fix the problem.

So, what’s eating your pepper plants each night? Location plays a role in what’s happening, but there are a few key suspects to consider. Take a look at the damage and consider the following.

Do You Need Pest Control Services?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

6 Most Common Pepper Plant Pests

You may be like many others in that you’ve made the decision to grow a vegetable garden as a way to get better nutrition into your life. In fact, an estimated 30 percent of people who garden today do so for this reason.

That’s why it’s frustrating to have your vegetable crops – that you’ve spent a lot of money on – become damaged and destroyed by unknown critters. Here is a look at some of the most common pests that eat pepper plans (including both hot and sweet peppers).

Pepper Weevils

Pepper weevils are one of the most common problems. These small insects (both the larvae and the adult) feed on the plant’s tissues, causing the bud and the pepper itself to fall off. This often leads to the rotting flesh of the pepper.

Pepper Hornworms

Hornworms are moth larvae that have a large (for their size) wingspan of about 4-inches. These will hide under the plants during the day but will eat the pepper plants’ leaves during the night, often causing significant damage as they do.


Another common threat is from the caterpillar, which typically attacks the leaves. However, it is possible for these critters to damage and eat a sizable amount of the pepper plant in just one night. If you have a large-scale loss, look for these furry critters.


Pepper plants are often at risk from damage from whiteflies. These pests are hard to see until you shake the plant. Hold it by the stalk and shake just a bit – you’ll notice the flies flying away. Those are whiteflies.

Snails and Slugs

It is somewhat common for slugs or snails to cause damage to pepper plant leaves, often causing holes and bite marks. You’ll know this is the problem if you have a trail of slimy substance on the leaves. You can easily pick these off and remove them, too.

Small Bugs

A number of small bugs also cause damage to pepper plants. These are some of the hardest to spot and control. They include:

  • Aphids: Aphids feed on many plants, thriving off the leaves and leaving behind a sticky substance. That substance, called honeydew, can easily become moldy, causing damage to the plant.
  • Thrips: This pest is a thin, winged pest that typically feeds on other insects but also often attacks the buds and leaves of pepper plants. You’ll notice black specks on the leaves, which are the feces from the pests.
  • Spider Mites: Look for yellow, white, or tan spots on the leaves of your plant to find spider mites. These insects are typically white or red but very small and hard to see.
  • Flea beetles: This pepper-eating insect may spread from kale or other plants to pepper plants, causing very small holes across the leaves of the plant. They are easy to miss without a close look.

What’s Happening to Your Pepper Plants Overnight?

The most common pepper plant leaf damage comes from the pepper hornworm or the caterpillars, which means that you should take a closer look for these pests in your garden specifically. The damage tends to be minimal if it is a hornworm but much more extensive when it is a caterpillar.

It can be important to look for evidence of the insect itself. Take into consideration that many of these insects may be lurking under the soil layer or the underside of leaves during the day.

What Can You Do to Stop Pepper Plant Damage?

You have options when it comes to stopping the damage to your pepper plants overnight. To do this, start with the most natural and organic methods possible. This way, you are not adding chemicals or byproducts to your pepper plants that you hope will offer the best nutrient level possible.

With 1 in 3 American households now working to grow food from their backyard, it’s the perfect opportunity to discuss ways to prevent pests like these from creating damage. How do you do it to save your pepper plants but also to help other crops? Here are some top tips.

Get Their Enemies Involved

One of the best ways to get rid of undesirable pests – including those damaging your pepper plants at night – is to introduce beneficial insects to the garden. That is, try to include more of the natural predators of these insects into the garden as long as they do not cause additional damage to your plants.

Some of the natural enemies that may help protect your pepper plants include:

  • Ladybirds
  • Parasitic wasps
  • Lacewings

This option works very well for aphids but may not be as easy to do if you have caterpillars or larger insects.

Hand Picking Them

If you can handle it, remove the larger bugs from your pepper plants by hand. This is not as hard as you think. You just need to pick them off and move them to another area of your yard.

The process is tedious and can take some time. However, if you really want to remove the pests destroying your pepper plants at night and do not want to use chemicals, this can be a very good option.

Another option is to use water to blast them off the plants. This option works well for slugs and snails, those pesky little critters that you probably do not want to have to pick up by hand. A quick burst of water from the hose is usually all it will take.

Use a Soap Spray

If you have a significant amount of damage on your pepper plants – or your large garden has problems – you likely have a much larger problem to handle. In this case, consider a horticultural soap spray. This spray works very well to help remove pests in a safe manner.

One of the options to consider is bacillus thuringiensis. It is safe to use on your pepper plants and can work on most types of pests. Look for organic options as they can help to reduce risks and keep your pepper plants safe for up to two weeks at a time.

Use Beneficial Fungi and Bacteria

Another natural way to get rid of the buildup of pests on your pepper plants is to use a beneficial bacteria or fungus. This is one of the better options for those with problems with pepper plants in pots. In this situation, the soil you are using is sterile.

That’s just fine, but you need to introduce bacteria and fungi to the soil to help ward against the bad versions. Look for bacillus thuringiensis, as noted above, or use mycorrhizal fungi. These are likely found at your local garden center and are easy to add.

You may also notice that you’ll see your pepper plants growing stronger and healthier once you start using these products. That’s because these organic nutrients are perfect for improving soil conditions to spur growth.

Do You Need Pest Control Services?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Related Questions

Does Neem oil remove pests?

Some gardeners may want to use neem oil. It is available in most garden centers or can be bought online. It works well to get rid of most types of pests in the garden. It can be a good option if you are unsure what type of pest is damaging your pepper plants overnight.

How do I get rid of garden pests with traps?

It is possible to use sticky traps to help contain and minimize the presence of pepper plant pests. This option works well if you have your pepper plants in a pot. Place these sticky traps along the bottom of the plants to prevent the pests from climbing into them.This helps to prevent most types of crawling pests and insects overall. You can also place these sticky traps right at the bottom of the plant’s stalk. This helps to minimize the risk of insects being able to climb up the stalk to get to the leaves.

How do I treat damaged pepper plant leaves?

When pests infest your garden and get into your pepper plants, make removal of the pests a top priority. Then, work to help the plants themselves. One of the steps you probably need to take is to remove the damaged parts from the plants to minimize further decay.

How do I rid my yard of pests like this?

If the damage is significant, the plant is not likely to produce peppers for you. As a result, it is a good idea to remove those damaged plants from the garden area. This helps to remove the pests as well. Take them out of the garden and, when possible, dispose of them by burning them.If you cannot do that, remove them from the garden and the area. This prevents further damage from occurring to your pepper plants. The best bet is to keep a close eye on the soil and remaining plants for further damage.

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

More by Upgraded Home Team