By Clint Thompson
Florida produce growers need to be wary of the pepper weevil, which is running rampant in the state’s vegetable fields.
According to the South Florida Vegetable Pest and Disease Hotline, pepper weevils are out of control on the East Coast in Florida vegetable fields. Growers are also seeing damage increasing in eggplant.
Damage is so extreme in remaining peppers that growers are having to terminate many of their plantings.
In addition, South Florida farmers are reporting that the Cuban pepper weevil is a problem.
University of Georgia entomologist David Riley said that 70% of the winter peppers imported into the U.S. are grown in Mexico, where pepper weevils originate. He stresses that even a small percentage of weevil-infested fruit can lead to an infestation.
Thresholds are one adult per 400 terminal buds or 1% of the buds infested. Populations are best observed by visual examination and yellow sticky traps.
Insecticides are commonly applied to the plant foliage at short intervals once budding begins. Chemical suppression is feasible, but insecticides vary in effectiveness. Despite the presence of chemical insecticides some loss is inevitable. Actara, Vydate, diamides and pyrethroids can be used in a program to control the pepper weevil. Consult the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recommendations for currently labeled insecticides for proper control in Florida.
There are a couple of factors for farmers to consider if they hope to disrupt the weevil’s life cycle. Proper sanitation and a crop-free period, if it’s accompanied by the destruction of alternate hosts can be effective. Sanitation involves any practice that eliminates or reduces the amount of pathogen inoculum, pests, or weed seeds that are still present in the field.