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Little white bugs everywhere!

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2006
by reguy on November 05, 2005 12:15 AM

A few days ago, I started noticing bunches of little white bugs all over my pepper plants. What are they? [Frown] How do I get rid of them?

Plus, about a quarter of the leaves have fallen off the pepper plants! What's happening? [tears]
Since it is beginning to get cold here in SoCal, it's about 65-70 degrees daytime and 55-60 at night, are the leaves falling off due to the cold? Or is it because of the bugs?

Here is a photo.

Steve [Wink]
by RugbyHukr on November 05, 2005 01:25 AM
looks like whiteflies

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I love the sweet scents wafting in the breeze. I stop to admire the vibrant colors of all living things. And people think me odd. Then ODD I am!!!
by LadyBug9071 on November 07, 2005 12:22 PM
May I suggest putting a little dish soap in a bucket of cool water and pouring over your pepper plants. Usually it will get rid of the little white bugs.
I did this to my roses and it sure got rid of the pests that were keeping the roses from doing good.
Hope it helps. Can't hurt a thing anyway
by Pesticus on November 08, 2005 05:01 AM
Sorry, but those are not whitefly! They are aphids (probably a Macrosiphum species) and the white things are their shed skins. You can clearly see the aphids on the smaller leaves. A surfactant-based product would certainly control these very easily. I use the SB Plant Invigorator, which is now available in the UK. Not sure if it's in the US yet, but can be ordered on line at

There's an info section on the Just Green site at which has some info on rose aphids, which are a similar species to these in the picture.
by Patty S on November 08, 2005 05:05 PM
I'm sorry too, but they're not aphids or whitefly!
Those are Mealy Bugs! Actually, it doesn't matter so much which of the 3 they are (or who's right/wrong), because the remedy is the same: spray rubbing alcohol on them ... It won't hurt the plant, & eating the peppers that have been sprayed with it won't hurt you. You might have to do it more than once, because it looks like a pretty healthy colony & they hide in places that you don't even know are there!

About Mealy Bugs, aphids & white fly, Bob Vila (a pretty good source of info, in my book) says, "Frequent repetition is the key to control. A strong water spray or under the shower drench is recommended currently. The old way was to remove the critters with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, including under the leaves, followed by a good washing. There are other less time consuming options though. Commercial insecticidal soap spray is one. Or make your own using a half teaspoon of Ivory Dishwashing Liquid in a gallon of water. (I have found the usually recommended one teaspoon per gallon too strong for many indoor plants. Causes brown damage on tender leaves.) Or consider a spray of water and mouthwash (with alcohol) which smells pleasant, like peppermint. The bugs don't like the alcohol or the smell. Pyrethrum, the safest chemical, which is in most house plant sprays, is the classic treatment for these critters. For non edible plants, spray with light horticultural summer oil, which lasts longer than all of the above. It also may cause brown leaf damage so test it first on a small area."

Personally, I don't care to simply move them (by spraying them with water, etc. unless they're on a house plant, & they go down the drain), because they'll only find their way back! Alcohol kills them, so you don't have to keep chasing the same ones away over & over again.

BTW, Did you know that Pepper plants are are perennial? They can live for several years if you just bring them indoors before winter, so they don't freeze to death! (More on this later, under a different topic.)

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by Pesticus on November 09, 2005 04:09 AM
If those are mealy bugs, I'll pay back all the wages I have earnt as an entomologist over the past 35 year!!!
by Patty S on November 09, 2005 01:56 PM
Hmmmm! Interesting! (First time I've seen aphid make that webby looking stuff! Maybe they're evolving... or mutating! [Razz] ) Steve, have you also noticed an ant problem on/around the plants since these bugs arrived?

As I said before, the treatment is the same for the three "bugs" mentioned above, so which one they happen to be isn't really a big deal to me! If you haven't already killed them off, Steve, I'd like to suggest that you take a sample of them to your County Extension office, & they'll identify them for you, in person . (That should finalize your first question... after all, there's only 1 expert among us so far on this topic, & we are diagnosing your problem from photos, rather than live specimens!)

As for your 3rd question, night time temps of 55-60F isn't cold enough to cause leaf loss, but over watering will. Yes, the "bugs" might be the culprits too, but they would more than likely mottle the leaves first. Insufficient light will also cause leaf loss.

Other than the "bugs", it looks like you have a nice, healthy plant going for you! [thumb] Before your temps fall below 50F, bring your Pepper plants indoors if you'd like to keep them going! If they are in the ground now, you'll want to transfer them to plastic pots (not clay/terra-cotta pots). While you're at it... ground eggs shells, worked into the soil, will provide the calcium that improves Pepper production & quality. They don't have a deep root system but the roots branch out fairly close to the surface, so position your shovel several inches away from the plant & bring up as much soil with the roots as you can, in a single scoop, to avoid shocking. Water them lightly (don't fertilize) & don't put them in a sunny window for the first few days. Remember that they're in a different environment indoors, where they don't have air & temp changes to deal with, so for proper watering, lift the pot every few days & if it feels light, water moderately.

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by reguy on November 13, 2005 02:42 AM
Thanks for the responses guys. I figured I'd try to clean them off with soapy water and bring them inside. Wow...I'd really hate to bring these damn bugs into my house. [Frown]

I've always had an ant problem. I live in a new construction area and they're everywhere. I'll find a few straggler ants roaming around my bathroom usually two or three times a week! [Mad]

Thanks again!
by Sharkeysday on December 16, 2005 03:28 AM
Thanks everyone! Just found you on google looking for an answer to this. Interestingly mine is on pepper plants too (that wasn't one of my search words) and mine are in the house (athough they started outside).
The odd thing is that I've actually treated them with insectisidal soap once.
I'm going through and wiping each leaf this time (hope that helps) and I may try the rubbing alcohol too. Any other suggestions? I love these plants and have actualy gotten a lot of peppers from them!
by Wendylee on January 08, 2006 12:17 PM
I have the same bugs on my Ivy plant! and a few other plants. Can I use the soapy water?

by Buglady on February 05, 2006 12:16 PM
I see an ant in the background too.. i am sure she is farming the aphids. The skins are dead but my guess is there are aphids present still.

I would be very careful using just soapy water because of phyto issues. (burning the plant)

I have been using a product called veggie pharm, an organic insecticide, and been very happy with the results.

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The Buglady
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans,
Educating the world... one bug at a time
by Buglady on February 05, 2006 12:18 PM
Hey my message got cut off [wavey]


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The Buglady
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans,
Educating the world... one bug at a time

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