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Plant Diseases/Cayenne Pepper Plants

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Question
Hello, I usually have a good crop of cayenne peppers grown in containers.  My husband loves hot, hot peppers, especially cayennes.  This year I've had the problem of recent rains and usually expect that in the Treasure Coast Florida summers.  But this year I have seen something has been eating the peppers!  These are hot peppers and can usually use cayenne sauce as protection from plant insect problems.  The evidence of "droppings" that look like little mini brown corn cobs.  Like those little pieces of corn at salad bars but much smaller and brown.  I am starting new seeds ordered from Burpee in new soil and completely getting rid of the last soil and clean containers.  But I am puzzled by this intruder/pepper eater.  Any idea what this is? And how do I protect my peppers?  Thanks for your time,
Betty

Answer
Dear Betty,
Sorry I have taken so long to answer your question, but for some reason it wasn't forwarded to me and I just now got it.  Anyway, your description of the droppings is very good.  You have some caterpillar eating your plants, and it could be tomato hornworms.  These caterpillars are known to defoliate entire plants very quickly, so on a pepper plant the caterpillar could have moved on by the time you notice it.  The best defense against these caterpillars is Bacillus thuringiensis, which is an organic bacteria.  This can be found in any gardening center or feed store.  When you spray your plants with this, any caterpillars eating will quickly lose their appetite, stop feeding, and the bacteria will rot their guts and kill them.  It is safe for people however.  Also, it's a very good idea to daily check the plants for caterpillars.  When you see droppings especially, there could be one hiding on the plant just above.  Look on the underside of leaves.  Changing the soil will probably not be beneficial because the adult moth will lay eggs on the underside of leaves.  Look also for small usually white bumps under the leaves.  These can be easily crushed.  By occasional spraying with Bacillus (or Bt as it is also called), and consistent checking the plants for signs of caterpillars and eggs, you should have very good control over these pests.  I hope this helps.  Good luck, Melissa

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Melissa Johnston

Expertise

Plant diseases, landscaping, tropical plants, roses, herbs, plant care, grafting, horticulture, plant identification, anything about plants I can likely answer.

Experience

35 years experience in various plant businesses, 1984 Certified Texas Master Gardener.

Organizations
Master Gardener Association of Texas charter member

Publications
none as of yet, but I have a plant q&a book I am in process of submitting.

Education/Credentials
Magna cum laude graduate of Texas A&M, 1978

Awards and Honors
Plant growing awards, highest grade for Texas Master Gardener graduates.

Past/Present Clients
Past member of Allexperts.com and was very highly rated. Owned landscape company in the past, Almost Paradise, and was very successful despite little equipment, no help, and no advertising. Lived well for two years until 9/11.

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