What Animal Is Eating My Peppers At Night (How To Stop Them)

Is something foraging around your veggie patch, helping themselves to your pepper plants, leaves, stems, fruits and all? There is nothing more frustrating than having your beautiful peppers stolen right from under your nose – especially after all the love and care you put into your plants over the last few months. The big question is what animal is eating my pepper plants at night?

There are a few usual suspects that come to mind who could be responsible for your half-eaten pepper plants. Rabbits and deer have quite a reputation when it comes to nightly raids on home gardens. While more agile animals like squirrels and rabbits can also do some devastating damage to pepper plants in a single night. But how do you determine who is the culprit? The good news is that each suspect has a specific MO (modus operandi) that can help us identify who raided your pepper plants. Stick with us, and we’ll not only help you identify the animal, but also how to prevent them from snacking on your plants again.

What Animal is Eating my Pepper Plants At Night

Welcome to the Garden Bench Top, where today we have embraced our inner detective to solve the case of the eaten pepper plants by night. If you’re ready, grab your magnifying glass, because we have clues to look for and a case to solve!

SIDENOTE – clearly we have watched one too many murder mystery films!

credit: tenor

What Animals Eat Pepper Plants?

Okay, let’s take a step back and look at the facts. You have been dutifully tending to your crop of pepper plants in your back garden, waiting patiently for them to mature on the stem, so they become sweet and juicy.

Unfortunately, you have not been the only one coveting your prized hot peppers. There seems to be an opportunistic thief hanging around, and we bet they will be back.

The good news is each suspect leaves specific evidence, or calling cards, that will give them away. Let’s take a closer look at each of our suspects to see which one has been helping themselves to your sweet pepper plants.

Do Squirrels Eat Pepper Plants?

Squirrels eating pepper plants

As cute as they are, squirrels can be persistent little pests that can devastate a garden one plant at a time. Their ability to climb and jump between trees makes them formidable opponents to keep out of your precious pepper crops.

If you have spotted squirrels running around your neighbors’ trees, there is a high chance they may be responsible for your eaten pepper plants. But how do you know if they are your thief?

Squirrels will generally like the fruits of your plants, either chewing them off at the stem and running away with them. Or insultingly, they will take a few nibbles out of your pepper and leave it on the ground as a calling card to say ‘How do you like that?’

The reason squirrels won’t eat the entire pepper fruit is because they don’t particularly like capsaicin, which is the component in peppers that gives them their heat. Once the squirrels taste the capsaicin, they will lose interest and discard the pepper. Unfortunately for you, it’s too late because they have spoiled the fruit or taken it away.

Squirrels may nibble on the leaves of pepper plants. However, this is generally only if they don’t have access to any fruits or other vegetables from your delicious vegetable garden.

How to Stop Squirrels from Rating Your Pepper Plants

If you want a short and sharp solution to your squirrel problem, there are commercial products available on Amazon, such as repellents or sprays. But if you are after more DIY solutions, keep on reading.

Strangely we can use the squirrels’ aversion to capsaicin to our advantage. Capsaicin is present in most foods that are spicy, such as chili or jalapeños. By sprinkling seeds from the pepper fruits around the plants, it can help to deter squirrels. Chili powder (from the pantry) also works.

Another option for keeping squirrels away from your precious pepper plants is to plant a feeder garden. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a feeder garden, it is essentially a patch of garden that you grow purely to feed the animals that inhabit the area around your garden. That way you’re happy because the pests stay away from your precious produce, and the animals are fed. If you decide to go down this route, we recommend you plant the feeder garden far away from your actual vegetable patch.

Do Deer Eat Pepper Plants?

Deer eating pepper plants

Deer are voracious pests that can quickly strip all your plants back to the main stem within a single sitting – especially when there is a small herd.

Deer are particularly hard to keep out of your garden due to their muscular bodies and ability to jump over obstacles that are 7-8 feet tall. As you can appreciate, generic small house fencing is child’s play for a deer, who can clear it within a single bound. To be effective, a fence line needs to be at least 8 feet tall, and completely encircles the entire garden. Even the smallest weakness in a fence (like a short gate) will allow them access into that delicious salad bar you have been cultivating.

But that’s enough about the athleticism of deer – will they eat your pepper plants and fruits?

Although it is not their preferred food (again due to the spicy taste), if a deer is hungry enough, they will eat anything.

They aren’t particularly neat eaters either. They tear and yank leaves off plants, stripping them down to the stems. And they will defecate as they munch on your garden. So inspecting the ground for feces and hoof prints is a dead giveaway that deer have been raiding your pepper plants.

How to Prevent Deer from Eating Your Pepper Plants

As we mentioned earlier, erecting a fence around your backyard is the best way of keeping deer out of your precious garden. Just make sure it is at least 8 feet tall.

We understand that some gardeners will see this option as an eyesore. And in many cases, we agree. There are other options for deterring deer from entering your garden, however they may not be as effective as a fenced fortress.

There are many commercial products available on Amazon that will help to keep deer away from your garden. Such as deer repellent sprays or granules you can use to form a perimeter around your garden.

Those that want a more organic solution, you can try spreading human hair clippings around your garden. As the deer smells the human hair, they are tricked into thinking there are humans around, eventually persuading them to move on to feed in safer pastures.

Alternatively, you can try hanging bars of soap around your garden. Similar to the human hair concept, the deer associate the smell of soap with humans, giving them the impression that danger is around them and that they should avoid the area.

Do Rabbits Eat Pepper Plants?

Rabbits eating pepper plants

Rabbits can be particularly devastating in home gardens. But when it comes to the mystery of who ate your pepper plants, we can cross them off the suspects list.

Rabbits prefer a diet of leafy greens and stems, rather than spicy pepper fruits. If they are hungry, they will nibble on the leaves and some new plant growth, however they won’t touch the fruits.

A dead giveaway that rabbits were present at the scene of the crime are their droppings. Rabbits generally defecate as they graze. Roam your gardens to see if you can see any evidence that rabbits have been doing nightly raids. You may even come across some of their burrows – in which case you may have a bigger problem.

How to Prevent Rabbits from Eating Your Pepper Plants

If you do notice your pepper plants with missing leaves and the tops being chewed down to a stub, you may have a rabbit problem.

To keep these little hopping pests out of your garden there are a few things you can do to deter them from foraging in your garden.

A sure fire way of keeping your pepper plants safe from the mouths of hungry rabbits is to fence them off.

Because rabbits are ground dwelling creatures, you don’t need to install a tall fence (as is the case for deer). Rabbits can, however, dig under your fences, so you will need to ensure your fence line goes at least one foot down into the ground.

We also recommend sprinkling some natural deterrents around your pepper plants to keep rabbits at bay. It is simple, budget-friendly and can often be found in your spice rack in your pantry. Spices like ground up chili and red pepper are great options. Alternatively, talcum powder also works to prevent rabbits from doing too much damage.

Smaller Animals That Eat Pepper Plants

Not all pepper plant pests need to be large furry animals. Sometimes the most elusive thieves are right under your nose – you just can’t seem them unless you know what you are looking for!

Slugs and Snails

Snails eating pepper plants

Even though these pests are not as speedy as deer, or agile as a squirrel, snails and slugs can do plenty of damage to your pepper plants.

Secretly and slowing, these gastropods will quietly munch on your pepper plant leaves and stems. They particularly like new growth that is tender and juicy. Eventually they will cause enough damage to your plant, it will hinder it beyond repair and eventually weaken and die.

You’ll know when slugs or snails are attacking your pepper plants by their glistening trails of slime they leave behind them.

How to Stop Slugs and Snails

Manual removal is a great option that is budget-friendly. Whenever you go to tend to your pepper plants, if you see a snail or slug, remove it immediately. This will keep their numbers done and give your pepper plants time to recover and continue bearing fruit.

You can also sprinkle used coffee grounds around your pepper plants. Slugs and snails do not like the taste, texture and acidity of the coffee grounds. Meaning they will generally steer clear of the area.

White Flies

These voracious insects will cause irreversible damage to your pepper plants by sucking the life out of them. They feed on the sap of your pepper plants (their lifeblood), and if not treated, will weaken your peppers to the point of no return.

It is easy to identify when you have a white fly problem. Firstly, you’ll notice the little white flies hovering around your plants. They also leave a sticky residue on your plants after they have been feeding on the pepper plant’s sap.

How to Stop White Flies

The best way to rid your pepper plants of white flies is an application of an organic pesticide. If your pepper plants have fruit, ensure the pesticide does not contain any toxic chemicals since you will be consuming the peppers.

Pepper Weevils

Credit: Unsplash

Pepper weevils are a complete nuisance when it comes to your pepper plants. They seem to enjoy feeding on the entire plant (fruits included) and once you have an infestation, it is difficult to get under control.

How to Stop Pepper Weevils

Unfortunately, because they are difficult to control, once they are into your pepper plant crops, the only solution is to destroy the crop, so they don’t spread. We understand this isn’t the news you wanted to hear, but it is important to completely clean your area of any fallen fruit and plant remains so they have no available food source.


Caterpillar eating pepper plants

Another menace in the insect world, the caterpillar is a formidable pest. They sit quietly munching away at your pepper plants and fruits. Slowly, but surely, they decimate your crops until there is very little left or they have reached their fill of food.

They are sneaky pests as well, because they like to hang on the undersides of your leaves, out of sight.

How to Stop Caterpillars

Again, manual removal is the best and most efficient way of getting rid of these pests. Be warned, once you see one caterpillar, there is sure to be more.

Make sure you thoroughly inspect your pepper plants. Look under leaves, along the stems and even inside the fruits (if you see holes). They are masters at hiding and camouflage.

Conclusion: Case Closed?

credit: giphy

So, is it safe to say we have solved the mystery of who ate your pepper plants?

The answer is in the facts and evidence.

If your pepper plants have been stripped clean, fruit, leaves and all, the finger points to Mrs Deer.

However, if only the leaves and the new growth are missing, Mr Rabbit may be the one responsible.

On the other hand, if you have half-eaten sweet peppers lying on the ground, Master Squirrel may be the culprit taunting you with spoiled fruit.

And we can’t forget our little insects and slimy characters, like white flies, slugs, snails and caterpillars – all can prove quite damaging if left unchecked!