I'm have two bell pepper plants that seem to be attracting a hungry pest. I'm in Phoenix AZ.

  1. What insect is causing this damage?
  2. Is this a significant threat to the health of the plant? So far it looks like the plant can do just fine with this level of damage.
  3. How do I stop it? I've never caught the culprit. I've checked around and under the leaves, and I've never seen any bugs or eggs of any sort. I removed a caterpillar once a few months ago before the damage started but that's it.

I do know there's some sun damage there - I was out of town during the worst of the heat and it got burned a bit.

eaten leaves

eaten leaf closer

Also, on another note - I planted these from seed in March. The package said around 70 day harvest. The larger plant is about 18 inches tall. When can I expect first flowers? This is my first year attempting to grow anything at all so I guess I should be happy with this.


2 Answers 2


This looks like the work of cutter bees to me. Their damage to the leaves of your peppers is often outweighed by their benefit in your garden as a pollinator.

Here's some good reading on them.


And here's the Wikipedia article:



I vote for cut worms. Just takes one to damage plants. Go out at night with a flashlight. They can get fairly big. Use scissors and cut it in half. Where is this plant? The guy might just be in the potting soil curled up for the day. Dig around a bit. Leaf cutter bees are the mason bees. I've never ever seen them actually harm or cut up plants. In fact, if I did I'd sacrifice that plant hands down for having them in my garden...sweet, harmless pollinators. Used to sell mason bees for gardens. They even make cute mason bee homes...grins!

  • Good call stormy. My argument is that, to my knowledge, cut worms don't exclusively target leaf edges as pictured above. 😀
    – Brenn
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 0:16
  • That is what I've seen from cutworms...edges are easy for them to eat. I really only know these guys from experience and late night safaris. If Tesserex doesn't see one at night or in the soil of that pot, perhaps a mouse/rat? Grins. That lovely crescent of chewing is very cutworm...What other ideas do you have...?? Shoot, I'd pop that pepper out of the pot and poke around, shake it a bit to see what falls out. btw, cutworms will CURL up tightly.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 4:39
  • And tesserex said they removed a 'caterpillar'...did this caterpillar curl into a tight circle? Are your plants in the sun? What fertilizer are you using? Too much nitrogen equals no flowers, no peppers.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 6:58

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