Caterpillar on pepper plant

Worms On Peppers: What Is Eating My Peppers?

When it comes to pepper plants, there are many different pepper pests. You can avoid them as long as you treat the area, but you have to be careful treating around vegetable gardens as to what you use and how much. If you’re having trouble with your pepper plants, this article might help you know which pepper pests you are dealing with so you can apply the appropriate treatment.

Types of Worms on Peppers

There is a pepper caterpillar called the tobacco hornworm. This particular pepper caterpillar is green and has a red anal horn. The pepper caterpillar will munch on both the fruit and the leaves of your pepper plant. You will know he has been there because he leaves large open scars on the peppers themselves.

Pepper grubs eat at the roots of the pepper plant and prevent the plant from absorbing the nutrients it needs from the soil. This will cause smaller peppers and even plants that simply do not produce any peppers.

A pepper worm, like the beet armyworm, is another pest that can damage your pepper plants. This pepper worm is about one-third the size of the pepper caterpillar. He can be green or black and is a larva. He will damage the buds and young leaves on the pepper plant. This will prevent any good peppers from forming.

Worms on peppers are truly the biggest pest. You can have the corn earworm, which actually leaves holes in the peppers themselves, and the pepper maggot that feeds on the inside of the fruit. When it comes to worms on peppers, the pepper maggot also leaves holes in the fruit. Truthfully, if you want to know if you have worms on peppers, just look for holes in the fruit. This should tell you it’s probably a worm you are dealing with.

Other pepper pests can include flea beetles and pepper weevils, which chew holes in the foliage of the pepper plant. This is not good because it can eventually harm the plant, but aren’t as bad as some of the other pests mentioned.

Controlling pests with the proper pest control items is your best bet. There are a lot of pests that love the pepper plant because of its sweetness. Protect your plant and you should have a great crop of pest free peppers. Simply watch out for the signs of pest damage and make sure you use the right pest control items so you don’t chance harm to your garden, pets or family.

Organic Control for Tomato Hornworms on Peppers

Tomato Hornworms are really big green caterpillars that can devastate your pepper garden. Giant brown moths lay pearl-like eggs on your pepper leaves, from which the monsters will hatch and start to eat voraciously. They can decimate all the leaves on a plant overnight.

The best organic control might be picking the caterpillars off the plants, but by then it could be too late to save your plants. Also, touching and pulling them off is gross, but depending on how mad you are, you won’t mind! Then destroy them by dropping in a bucket of soapy water or cutting the caterpillar in half.

If your tomato hornworms have little white eggs on their backs you might want to keep them as pets (prisoners). These are parasitic wasp eggs, and after the wasp larvae hatches, it spins a cocoon on the hornworm for protection. They slowly consume their prey to fuel their growth to adulthood. These adult wasps will then go lay eggs on more hornworms.

Other beneficial insects like yellow jackets, lady beetles and green lacewing larvae also enjoy feasting on young tomato hornworm caterpillars. By attracting these helpful insects and implementing additional controls, like row covers and marigold borders, pesky tomato hornworms on your peppers could soon be a thing of your gardening past.

Have you ever wondered – “How To get rid of caterpillars eating leaves in your garden”?

Caterpillars represent the immature (larval stage) in the life cycle of butterflies and moths. Of course, butterflies are very desirable beneficial insects and we don’t want to kill butterfly caterpillars.

The types of caterpillars feeding that do the most damage to autumn crops are the kind that turns into moths. Read on to discover how to get rid of caterpillars.

Moth caterpillars are introduced to your garden when a moth lays eggs on your plant leaves. You may see these caterpillar eggs on the undersides of the leaves of your plants.

Some moths lay single eggs, and others lay clusters of eggs.

Naturally, each egg hatches to become a little caterpillar and the caterpillars eat the food source of their choice.

Very often food of their choice is also the food of your choice.

If you have a lot of moth caterpillar eating leaves in your garden, you can count on them doing a great deal of damage to your vegetable production and consuming quite a bit of your crop during the two or three weeks between their hatching and wrapping up in a cocoon.

This pupal stage varies in length. Some caterpillars emerge from their cocoons as moths in only few weeks. Others may stay in the cocoon through the winter and emerge in the springtime. Either way, when the caterpillars become moths they lay more eggs and start the whole cycle over again.

How Can You Tell If There Are Caterpillars In Your Garden?

Most caterpillars are big enough to see pretty easily, but another dead giveaway is that the leaves of your plants will begin to look ragged and filled with holes.

When you see this, look at the underside of the leaves and you are sure to find caterpillars and possibly moth eggs.

Naturally, you don’t want to share the veggies you planned on eating with a horde of hungry caterpillars.

Additionally, when caterpillars do a great deal of damage to your young plants, they can kill them.

Caterpillars can be a real problem you’re trying to grow your own veggies. They are especially fond of the leafy green vegetables ripening in the autumn.

In this article, we will share some smart tips to help you prevent the incursion of moths and caterpillars and keep caterpillars under control.

How To Get Rid Of Caterpillars With 10 Smart Gardening Practices To Control Caterpillars

#1 – Don’t light your garden at night. Remember, moths are attracted to light. If you light your garden in the evening, you are sending out a beacon for moths.

#2 – Be observant! Examine your plants on a regular basis: daily is best. Look for moth eggs and small green caterpillars and remove them as soon as you see them.

If you see any sign of eggs, just snip or pinch off the affected leaves and dispose of them properly. Don’t toss them into your compost heap or you will simply be re-incorporating them into your garden via your compost.

When you examine the host plants, carry along a pail of soapy water.

How to kill caterpillars?

Whenever you see a caterpillar, simply pick it off and drop it in the bucket of water to kill the caterpillar.

Regular examination and diligent removal can go very far toward keeping your caterpillar population low.

Be advised that a number of caterpillars can sting! This is especially true of furry caterpillars and Puss caterpillars (a.k.a. asps).

Be sure to wear protective garden gloves when you are picking caterpillars off your plants.

#3 – Cover your plants with porous netting that will allow air flow and sunlight in while keeping pests off.

#4 – Use smart companion planting to discourage caterpillars. Planting strong smelling herbs such as:

  • Peppermint
  • Lavender
  • Mugwort
  • Sage

Can be very discouraging to caterpillars and a number of other pests.

#5 – Rotate your crops. Don’t plant the same type of plants in the same place year after year. This gives moths and caterpillars a chance to establish themselves. Rotate your crops to keep these pests on their toes!

#6 – Put caterpillars in their place! Of course the caterpillars you most want to get rid of are moth caterpillars. It’s easy to confuse them with butterfly caterpillars, which you want to keep!

To avoid accidentally doing away with caterpillars that grow up to become beneficial pollinators, plant a butterfly garden.

Set aside a section of your yard or garden for butterfly pleasing plants such as:

  • Milk Weed
  • Red Clover
  • Lantana plant varieties
  • Verbena flowers
  • Thistle

Become familiar with the types of butterflies that frequent your area.

Learn about the types of flowers that attract butterflies and plant accordingly.

Providing butterflies with the plants they desire and their caterpillars with the foliage needed will help prevent having caterpillars gobble up your vegetable garden.

#7 – Make your garden a haven for natural caterpillar predators. What eats a caterpillar?

Set up bird feeders and birdbaths around your garden to attract caterpillar eating birds.

Attract lizards, box turtles and toads by providing good hiding places (e.g. broken clay pots, logs, etc.). Provide flat rocks for sunning and shallow dishes of water on the ground to keep them happy.

If you have ducks or chickens, allow them the run of the garden from time to time so that they can dramatically reduce your caterpillar population.

#8 – Treat your plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t) – available at Amazon. This is a bacterial disease and biological control that only affects caterpillars. It is especially effective when used against very small caterpillars that have only recently hatched. If you see caterpillar eggs on your plants, it’s a good idea to remove them and then treat with Bacillus thuringiensis. immediately to combat caterpillars emerging from any eggs you may have missed. Read our review on Bacillus thuringiensis (B. t.) here.

B.t. is sold under the brand names Thuricide, Dipel and several others. This product can be dusted over the leaves of the infested plants, or sprayed in solution. Be sure to follow packaging instructions to get the correct dosage.

Coat your plants thoroughly so the caterpillars ingest the product when they eat. This organic solution should be used frequently (every 3 to 5 days) until your caterpillar population is under control.

Another similar product is the organic Spinosad insect spray. This product is made using a bacterium that is commonly found in the soil. Look for it and other caterpillars spray in a number of different organic insecticide products like the Monterey brand.

#9 – Pyrethrum is a very widely used fairly natural insecticide. The true, organic variety is made using extractions from chrysanthemums flowers. There are also chemical pesticides that are made using man-made forms of pyrethrum. If you see the term “pyrethroids” on the package labeling of a product you are considering using, you will know that is actually a synthetic product.

#10 – Neem oil can also be used to control caterpillars, and it is effective against a number of other garden pests such as beetles and aphids. Take care when using Neem oil for getting rid of caterpillars.

Apply sparingly and only to areas where you have seen moth/caterpillar infestation. It is indiscriminate in its effectiveness and can be harmful to beneficial fauna. Learn more about the benefits and uses of Neem Oil insecticide here.

Choose Organic Products For Caterpillar Control Whenever Possible

All of the product on this list are organic, so they are not as harmful to beneficial insects has powerful chemical agents. Additionally, they break down fairly quickly and don’t leave harmful residues behind. Still, some (i.e. Pyrethrum and Neem insecticide spray) can harm beneficial insects. This is why it’s best to deal with moths and caterpillars manually and through smart partnering with birds and other beneficial garden dwellers.

If you do use an organic pesticide, remember you do will need to use it more frequently than chemical pesticides because these products do break down quickly. Even though they are less harmful to beneficial insects and chemicals, they still do some harm.

Anytime you apply and insecticide for any reason, do so carefully and mindfully. Don’t spray it wholesale or you will end up killing off the good insects that help you.

What To Do about Specific Types of Caterpillars

The types of caterpillars that may plague your garden will vary depending upon where you live. It’s important you learn to identify the caterpillars common to your area. Some types of treatment work well against one type of caterpillars but not against another. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid doing away with caterpillars that are the larvae of beneficial butterflies.

Here are some basic guidelines for common types of caterpillars:

Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillars:

Don’t kill please! Instead, be sure to mix a few of their favorite greens, herbs veggies into your butterfly garden. These include:

  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Fennel
  • Carrot Greens
  • Parsnip Greens
  • Queen Anne’s Lace

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are large and bright green with yellow and white stripes that run horizontally around the body of the caterpillar. When you find them in an area of your vegetable garden where you don’t want them, simply pick them up and move them to your butterfly garden.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars:

If you are fortunate enough to live on the Monarch migration route, take extra steps to welcome these endangered beauties. Be sure to add milkweed to your butterfly garden as it is the only plant their plump, black and yellow striped caterpillar babies will eat.

You can purchase milkweed seed online or from your local garden center. It is available in an interesting array of flower colors and configurations. Planting it in your yard will beautify your yard and help preserve majestic Monarch butterflies.

Cabbage Moth Caterpillars

Row covers provide a good way to protect your brassica (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) crops against these hungry caterpillars.

You can buy these ready-made covers at your local garden center, or you can make your own. More in our article – 15 Tips On How To Control Cabbage Looper Caterpillar Worms

To do this, you will need to erect a series of hoops over your crop and cover the hoops with a light material that allows good air flow and the passage of sunlight but can still prevent encroachment by moths and caterpillars.

Tomato Horn Worms:

When these large green hornworm caterpillars invade your tomato plants, they can strip them of their leaves in less than 24 hours. Watch for them carefully. They are easy to see because they are quite large.

You can recognize them easily because they have a big spike (horn) on the tail end. The minute you see a tomato hornworm or caterpillars worms, pick it off and drop it into a bucket of water filled with soap.

Asps:

This type of caterpillar is commonly found in shade trees in the southern United States. It is easily distinguished by its furry body. These caterpillars may be gray, tan, yellowish or rust colored. Be very careful to avoid contact with them as they have venomous spines that can inflict a great deal of pain, cause skin rashes and even cause neurological damage.

They are very slow moving and tend to cling tightly to tree bark. It’s best to wear gloves and protective clothing and scrape them off into a pail of soapy water when you see them. Always examine limbs of shade trees before pruning to avoid contact with these caterpillars.

Asps are the pupa of puss moths or flannel moths, which are rather striking in appearance. They are creamy colored with rose highlights on the wings. Their bodies are covered with scales and fur, and their antennae are frilly. If you see them in your trees, you should treat right away with permethrin to prevent them from laying eggs.

Puss moths and asps do not have natural enemies because of their venomous qualities.

Cutworms

These are caterpillars that live under the soil. They eat through the stems of seedlings after dark.

You can prevent them from being able to get to the stems by protecting your young seedlings with toilet paper rolls cut to 2″ – inch lengths.

Simply place the section of toilet paper roll around young plants’ stems so cutworms cannot get to them.

Army Worms

Armyworms are black with yellow stripes that run the length of their body. They are a type of caterpillar that always appears en masse or as an “army”.

Do caterpillars eat grass? What do green caterpillars eat?

They will eat almost anything, and they’ll eat all of it! Voracious armyworms will make short work of large amounts of:

  • Clover
  • Millet
  • Grass
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Corn
  • Flax

…to name just a few! They will generally eat whatever is in their path. They can be especially destructive to lawns and are very difficult to eradicate from the lawn because they dwell in the thatch.

Sometimes they show up in such large numbers that they blanket the ground, but this is not as common in modern times as it once was. In fact, these days you may not notice them immediately because they hide during the day and eat at night.

If you begin noticing brown patches in your lawn and lots of birds hanging around, it’s an indication that you may have armyworms.

Prevent Army Worm Incursion Early

If you have had problems with armyworms in the past, there is a test you can perform early in the spring to see if you can expect trouble again. Take a one-gallon can with both ends removed and push one end firmly into the earth. Fill it with water, add some soap and wait a few minutes.

The soapy water will kill any armyworms that may be lurking in that little bit of soil, and they will float to the top. If you unearth half a dozen, you can be pretty sure your soil is badly infested. You should take steps to eradicate the infestation right away.

Luckily, early detection allows you to use less harmful and less invasive means to get your army worm infestation under control.

To deal with this problem in your grass, you should mow the grass very short and water deeply to drive the caterpillars to the surface. Doing this early in the day will enable the birds to help you get rid of them for several hours.

If you’ve caught your armyworm problem while the larva are still small, B.t. can be effective against them.

If they grow to be a half an inch long or longer, it will not be effective and you may be forced to use a strong, chemical pesticide to deal with them if you have a very severe infestation.

No matter what you apply, be sure to apply it just before dark so that it will have the greatest effect on the caterpillars since they tend to feed overnight.

A combination of engaging bird assistance in the morning and applying B.t.(or another product) in the evening should go far to get your armyworm problem under control.

After you have applied B.t. or another product to your lawn, don’t water or mow for three days. This will give your application of products a good chance to work.

This Interesting Hairy Fluff-Ball Is Full Of Poison

The puss caterpillar is kind of cute, for a bug, but they are no laughing matter. A post at wimp.com talks about they can actually harm people, especially smaller children, who might be fooled by their relatively innocuous and fluffy appearance.

If you see one on you, brush it off immediately, and, if you happen to get stung by one, you can remove the smaller stingers with common household scotch tape – read on to find out more!

AOL.com reports the following

Despite their furry, cuddly looks, they are extremely venomous. What looks like hairs are actually sharp spines. These spines are connected to venom glands.

Despite their cute fuzzy exterior, stay away from these harmful caterpillars. Via aol.com

What To Do About Caterpillars On Bushes And Trees

In the autumn you may see lots of caterpillars on trees, shrubs and bushes. For the most part, they will not harm established plants, and their feasting only lasts a couple of weeks until it’s time for them to go into the pupal stage in preparation for becoming moths and butterflies.

You can use organic pesticides on trees and bushes to control caterpillars; however, this is not usually necessary.

You are very likely to receive a lot of voluntary assistance from natural predators in the form of birds, parasitic wasps, spiders and the like in keeping soft, tasty caterpillars under control.

Sometimes, you may see groups of caterpillars all together on one limb munching away. When this is the case, it’s easy to simply cut that limb off and get rid of it, or pick the caterpillars off and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.

Every once in a while, caterpillars appear in huge numbers and can actually strip all of the foliage from trees and bushes. When this happens, you may need to spray with a mild pesticide.

Do your best to get rid of as many caterpillars as you can by hand before resorting to potentially hazardous solutions.

Use A Combination Of Methods

So, how to get rid of caterpillars on plants?

Diligence is the #1 deterrent when it comes to caterpillar control. When you keep a close eye on your garden and catch infestations early, you may be able to keep caterpillars completely under control by hand and by engaging the help of friendly fauna and helpful bacteria.

Careful garden planning management and the use of preventative elements such as row covers and strong smelling herbs will also help keep caterpillars at bay. When you turn to these smart, natural solutions quickly and diligently, you may never need to use any kind of pesticide to control caterpillars.

In August 2019, we received multiple inquiries from readers about the facts surrounding a viral video clip that showed what appeared to be a long, stringy worm of some kind moving about inside a green bell pepper.

The video was re-posted by multiple Facebook users, many of whom warned viewers about the worm, which several of them described as potentially dangerous, and some identified as “the simla mirch” worm.

On Aug. 20, a Facebook user from Brazil posted the video, garnering almost 10 million views within a week. Her caption warned (translated from Portuguese): “Be careful with peppers … this worm is called Simla Mirch … a new worm which lives in wet areas of the body … It can cause pain and ultimately lead to death”:

Other widely shared videos did not specifically claim the worm could inflict pain or kill humans, but did advise viewers, in broader terms, to “be careful.” Some videos identified the worm as “Simla Mirch.”

The video was undoubtedly a curiosity, and it’s not surprising that the unappetizing spectacle of a worm moving about inside a popular vegetable caused it to be shared widely on social media. However, some of the specific claims associated with it were inaccurate.

The worm

According to experts we consulted, the creature shown in the video is very likely to be a mermithid nematode worm (a member of the Mermithidae family and the nematoda phylum). They are parasitic to insects and spiders, but they do not parasitize humans, and they are not harmful to us.

Ben Hanelt, a senior lecturer in biology at the University of New Mexico and an expert in parasitic worms, told Snopes in an email: “This is very likely a mermithid nematode. These are not pathogenic to humans; only to insects.”

John Janovy, emeritus professor of biological sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an expert in parasite ecology, told Snopes “There is a chance” the worm shown in the video was a mermithid nematode. If so, he told us, it “is of no danger to humans.”

Matt Bolek, an associate professor of integrative biology at Oklahoma State University and an expert in parasite ecology and evolution, wrote:

“As far as I can tell to me this looks typical of a mermithid nematode. These are parasites of insects and spiders and emerge from the arthropod host to seek either soil or water to develop to a free living adult worm. Not dangerous to humans and they cannot become infected with this parasite.”

Bolek said it was possible that the worm was a horsehair worm (of the Nematomorpha phylus), but this was unlikely because juvenile horsehair worms die quickly after leaving their hosts, and the adults are darker in color than the worm shown in the video, and do not move in the same way.

He told us that the horsehair worm also does not infect humans, and “there are really no other nematodes that have that coloration, move that way or are that skinny that have been reported to infect humans.” So whether the worm shown in the video was a mermithid nematode (which several experts told us was likely), or another kind, it was not harmful to humans.

That refutes the rather alarming claim made in the most widely-shared posting of the video, that the worm “can cause pain and ultimately lead to death.”

The life cycle of parasitic nematodes is not for the faint of heart. The worm shown in the video likely entered the pepper while it was a parasite of an insect or spider that bored its way inside. That is, the arthropod was likely carrying a juvenile mermithid nematode inside of its body, and when the worm reached adulthood, it emerged from the arthropod, killing it, and becoming “free living,” that is, no longer a parasite of another animal.

The video below shows three mermithid nematodes emerging from their host, a mosquito. It is not suited to queasy viewers:

The pepper

“Shimla mirch” (misspelled as “simla mirch” in some Facebook posts) is simply a Hindi name for Capsicum annuum, a species of the pepper plant and a popular way of describing bell peppers in India and Pakistan.

Some social media users who posted the video mistakenly described the worm, and not the pepper, as “simla mirch,” apparently due to a misreading of earlier posts by users in India and Pakistan, many of whom wrote:

“Be careful of shimla mirch. New type of worm. Cut properly, check and cook.”

To readers in India and Pakistan, it would have been clear that these posts were warning viewers to be vigilant when using bell peppers (shimla mirch) because of the presence of a “new type of worm.” However, some readers outside those countries understood “shimla mirch” to be the name of the “new type of worm” and shared the footage along with that significant inaccuracy.

Conclusion

The video that went viral in August 2019 is authentic and does indeed show a worm moving about inside a green bell pepper. However, according to the experts we consulted, it is likely to be a mermithid nematode, which is not parasitic of humans and does not pose a threat to us, contrary to the warnings posted on social media along with the video.

Furthermore, the worm shown in the video is not “new,” although August 2019 was likely the first time that millions of viewers had come across the mermithid nematode. Finally, “shimla mirch” (misspelled as “simla mirch”) is a Hindi name for the bell pepper shown in the video and not the worm itself.

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The video is authentic and does show a real worm moving about inside a green bell pepper. The experts we consulted agreed the worm was likely to be a mermithid nematode, and therefore harmless to humans. One expert explained that even if it were a different type of worm, it did not resemble any variety known to infect humans or pose a threat to them.

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Category : Mixture / False Context
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In August 2019, we received multiple inquiries from readers about the facts surrounding a viral video clip that showed what appeared to be a long, stringy worm of some kind moving about inside a green bell pepper.

The video was re-posted by multiple Facebook users, many of whom warned viewers about the worm, which several of them described as potentially dangerous, and some identified as “the simla mirch” worm.

On Aug. 20, a Facebook user from Brazil posted the video, garnering almost 10 million views within a week. Her caption warned (translated from Portuguese): “Be careful with peppers … this worm is called Simla Mirch … a new worm which lives in wet areas of the body … It can cause pain and ultimately lead to death”

Source : https://www.facebook.com/denise.monteiro.1800721/videos/188679335464650/ – Shared by 489.518 user.

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CLARIFICATION
The worm
According to experts we consulted, the creature shown in the video is very likely to be a mermithid nematode worm (a member of the Mermithidae family and the nematoda phylum). They are parasitic to insects and spiders, but they do not parasitize humans, and they are not harmful to us.

Ben Hanelt, a senior lecturer in biology at the University of New Mexico and an expert in parasitic worms, told Snopes in an email: “This is very likely a mermithid nematode. These are not pathogenic to humans; only to insects.”

John Janovy, emeritus professor of biological sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an expert in parasite ecology, told Snopes “There is a chance” the worm shown in the video was a mermithid nematode. If so, he told us, it “is of no danger to humans.”

Matt Bolek, an associate professor of integrative biology at Oklahoma State University and an expert in parasite ecology and evolution, wrote:

“As far as I can tell to me this looks typical of a mermithid nematode. These are parasites of insects and spiders and emerge from the arthropod host to seek either soil or water to develop to a free living adult worm. Not dangerous to humans and they cannot become infected with this parasite.”

Bolek said it was possible that the worm was a horsehair worm (of the Nematomorpha phylus), but this was unlikely because juvenile horsehair worms die quickly after leaving their hosts, and the adults are darker in color than the worm shown in the video, and do not move in the same way.

He told us that the horsehair worm also does not infect humans, and “there are really no other nematodes that have that coloration, move that way or are that skinny that have been reported to infect humans.” So whether the worm shown in the video was a mermithid nematode (which several experts told us was likely), or another kind, it was not harmful to humans.

That refutes the rather alarming claim made in the most widely-shared posting of the video, that the worm “can cause pain and ultimately lead to death.”

The life cycle of parasitic nematodes is not for the faint of heart. The worm shown in the video likely entered the pepper while it was a parasite of an insect or spider that bored its way inside. That is, the arthropod was likely carrying a juvenile mermithid nematode inside of its body, and when the worm reached adulthood, it emerged from the arthropod, killing it, and becoming “free living,” that is, no longer a parasite of another animal.

The pepper

“Shimla mirch” (misspelled as “simla mirch” in some Facebook posts) is simply a Hindi name for Capsicum annuum, a species of the pepper plant and a popular way of describing bell peppers in India and Pakistan.

Some social media users who posted the video mistakenly described the worm, and not the pepper, as “simla mirch,” apparently due toa misreading of earlier posts by users in India and Pakistan, many of whom wrote:

“Be careful of shimla mirch. New type of worm. Cut properly, check and cook.”

To readers in India and Pakistan, it would have been clear that these posts were warning viewers to be vigilant when using bell peppers (shimla mirch) because of the presence of a “new type of worm.” However, some readers outside those countries understood “shimla mirch” to be the name of the “new type of worm” and shared the footage along with that significant inaccuracy.

Conclusion

The video that went viral in August 2019 is authentic and does indeed show a worm moving about inside a green bell pepper. However, according to the experts we consulted, it is likely to be a mermithid nematode, which is not parasitic of humans and does not pose a threat to us, contrary to the warnings posted on social media along with the video.

Furthermore, the worm shown in the video is not “new,” although August 2019 was likely the first time that millions of viewers had come across the mermithid nematode. Finally, “shimla mirch” (misspelled as “simla mirch”) is a Hindi name for the bell pepper shown in the video and not the worm itself.

You don’t need to worry about that video claiming to show a snake in a pepper

A video that’s been shared over half a million times on Twitter and Facebook shows some sort of creature being pulled out of a green bell pepper. Sometimes the accompanying text claims it shows “the world’s tiniest poisonous snake” while another claims (in Portuguese) that it’s a worm that can infect and kill humans.

The video shows neither. We asked experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine what they thought.

Cheryl Whitehorn, a medical entomologist at the university’s Diagnostic Parasitology Laboratory, said that it wasn’t a snake, venomous or otherwise.

She said: “It may be a nematode worm of some type but is certainly not one that we cover in our studies and is therefore unlikely to be of any medical importance.”

The NHS does recommend that you wash raw vegetables and fruit before eating, mainly to avoid E. coli.

This article is part of our work factchecking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false as it’s not a snake, it’s probably a nematode worm that’s unlikely to be harmful to humans.

By Grace Rahman

In 333 B.C., Alexander the Great marched his army into the city of Gordion, where there was a massive knot in desperate need of untying. Legend held that the hero who could undo this exceedingly intricate Gordian Knot, as it was not-so-creatively called, would rule Asia. Alexander, unable to unravel the knot, drew his sword and sliced right through it, then, apparently with the blessing of the eviscerated loops, went on to conquer Asia minor.

The tall tale gives us the expression “to cut the Gordian Knot,” meaning to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem by over-the-top means. It also lends its name to one of the animal kingdom’s most clever parasites, the Gordian worm, which has solved the often insurmountable problem of survival with means that are horrifyingly over-the-top.

More commonly known as the horsehair worms, because folks with a limited understanding of reality once thought they were horsehairs that animated upon hitting water, the 350 or so known species invade insects like the luckless cricket above. After developing for several months, the worms mind-control their hosts to make a kamikaze dive into water, then escape through holes bored in the insect’s exoskeleton. The parasites end up in a tangled knot that can be as heavy as the tattered—and oftentimes very much alive—host they leave behind.

All across America in rivers or streams, horsehair worm eggs hatch and settle lazily to the bottom as larvae (we’ll be talking specifically about the species Paragordius varius and its parasitism of crickets). Unable to swim up the water column, the larva simply wait to be eaten by the larvae of other insects like midges, mayflies, and mosquitoes. When these insects metamorphose and emerge from the water, they live out their aerial lives with the larva in tow, then inevitably croak and get snatched up by a cricket, according to parasitologist Ben Hanelt of the University of New Mexico.

Once the worm larvae find themselves in the insect, “they will penetrate through the gut of the cricket and get into the body cavity, where they then grow from a tiny, tiny larva to something that’s now on the average of a foot long,” he said. (There’s a 6-foot species, by the way, that parasitizes an as-yet-unknown insect, probably a giant and perpetually nervous cockroach.)

Can you find the horsehair worms in this photo? It’s like Where’s Waldo, only horsehair worms

despise horizontal stripes. Image: Ben Hanelt

Really, the horsehair worm is nothing more than a giant gonad wrapped in a thin sheath of muscles, and I say that with all due reverence. Curiously, they don’t even have a mouth to eat with or chew their way through the cricket, so Hanelt remains unsure how they bore into the body cavity, and then through the exoskeleton to escape.

And there’s no digestive system as we would recognize it, because like the tapeworms that take up residence in our guts, they’re living in a veritable sea of food. “The way that these guys actually get their nutrients is right through the cuticle,” said Hanelt. “Right through the skin of the worm is where the fat and the sugar is actually absorbed straight from the body fluids of the host.”

Robbed Zombies

Now, it’s nearly impossible to identify an infected cricket, for this is no clumsy zombie of popular culture. Outwardly, the cricket behaves quite normally, save for a brilliant little trick the worm plays: It manipulates them to shut the hell up with the chirping. Chirping is, after all, energetically expensive, not to mention a real fine way to get yourself noticed and eaten, a rather anticlimactic end to the worm’s grand scheme.

When the worm is ready to leave the cricket, though, you’ll know it. Typically crickets give running water a wide berth, instead getting their hydration from food and the occasional dew drop. According to Hanelt, you can take a non-infected specimen and drop it near running water and it’ll leg it right out of there, every time. The dangers of hungry fish and drowning are simply too great.

But a cricket infected with a horsehair worm swears, quite wrongly, that it’s a great swimmer. At the behest of the worm it seeks out bodies of water with its antennae, which pick up the slightest changes in humidity. Then, seemingly against its better judgment, the host proceeds to perform a sicknasty cannonball: “If you take a cricket that actually has a worm in it,” said Hanelt, “and put it next to the water, it will always, in every case, jump immediately in.”

After admiring the cannonball, the worm, monitoring the world through a porthole it bored in the cricket, makes its move, squirming out of its host as soon as it hits the water. In nature, it’s typically one worm per cricket, though every now and then two or three will emerge. In Hanelt’s lab, however, his record is an astonishing 32 worms erupting from one unfortunate host (that GIF at top, which I ain’t even about to apologize for, was half that many worms).

The parasite, now free, will swim around in search of a mate. When they pair up, the male aligns his cloaca with the female and passes his sperm. Having served his sole earthly purpose, he will die. The female goes on to lay as many as 15 million eggs, which she pastes underwater on a stick or stone. When she’s done, she too will die, emptied of eggs and totally flattened out like a straw wrapper that’s lost its straw. Two weeks later, her eggs hatch into the larvae that settle once more onto the river bottom, beginning the process anew.

It’s a remarkable tale of an organism adapting over evolutionary time to manipulate another and use it as a private escort. But how on Earth can the worm hijack a cricket’s brain? And why would this evolve in the first place?

After laying her eggs, the female horsehair worm perishes. Which is just as well, since she releases up to 15 million of the things. Ain’t nobody got time for that amount of parenting.

Image: Matthew G. Bolek

“First of all,” said Hanelt, “the worm appears to be producing large amounts of neurotransmitters,” chemicals that allow the transmission of signals between neurons. “And the neurotransmitters that it’s producing are thought to make the cricket basically act in ways that normally the cricket wouldn’t act. And exactly which neurotransmitters these are and how they’re affecting the crickets, that we don’t know.” Secondly, it appears the worm triggers the cricket to boost production of neurotransmitters. But there is still much, much to be learned, just as there is with other highly sophisticated mind-controllers like wasps that enslave cockroaches and fungi that zombify ants.

As for why the worms would have needed to evolve such tactics, we have only theories. For Hanelt’s money, it’s a matter of opportunism. In the high deserts of New Mexico, he finds horsehair worms aplenty. Wandering through an extremely dry forest, he’ll come across a dinner-plate-sized puddle, and sure enough, there they squirm. “When I look around, I see very few resources,” he said, “flowering plants, grasses, etc. So, if I was a worm, the best way to make a living out here is to get into a very nutritious insect host, which is filled with fat. This represents the easy life.”

The cricket certainly gets a raw deal, but all is not necessarily lost for the host. Once free of its parasites, it can drown or fall prey to a fish—or, incredibly, escape a watery grave and live out the rest of its life as if it didn’t just give grueling birth to its own weight in worms. Indeed, Hanelt hears from folks all the time who find worms in toilets or dog bowls with no sign of their host, which has likely shuffled away exhausted, muttering to itself, head hung low. And that unfortunate cricket in the GIF that I still don’t regret? She not only survived, she went on to produce viable eggs.

“I always tell students this way to think about it,” said Hanelt. “Imagine if I told you to walk over to your car and remove half of its weight, but still have the car be able to get you to the airport. And somehow these worms have figured out how to do that within the cricket host, that they’re able to take half of everything that’s within that cricket but still make it tick. It’s kind of amazing.”

And so it would seem—with Gordian worms, at least—that the massive release of neurotransmitters is mightier than the sword.

Special thanks to ecologist Larry Serpa of the Nature Conservancy for suggesting this week’s creature. Browse the full Absurd Creature of the Week archive here. Have an animal you want me to write about? Email [email protected] or ping me on Twitter at @mrMattSimon.

Story:

Oh my god, dangerous thin snake worm found inside…be aware of these green vegetables Capsicum and Cabbage

Other Versions

  1. Be careful in eating Shimla Mirch…ladies watch carefully during chopping it in kitchen
  2. Surprisingly Thinnest snake in Capsicum. Believe it or not
  3. Be careful of eating Shimla Mirch in rainy seasons may be home for baby snakes
  4. (Hindi)
    Simla mircha me nikla kidaa –
    शिमला मिर्च में कीड़ा आप खुद ही देख लें
  5. शिमला मिर्च से निकला सांप

Fact Check:

Viral videos in heavy circulation on social media warn consumers about a dangerous thin Snake Worm found Inside vegetables Capsicum (Shimla mirch) and Cabbage. Accompanying messages claim the hidden baby snake worms or tape worms appear in rainy seasons. Some also suggested people to avoid eating the vegetables altogether. So, let us examine the details of the thin white worm inside Capsicum, Cabbage and check the authenticity of the health warning.

  • About Videos of Thin Worm Inside Capsicum & Cabbage

    The video showing the thin white worm inside Shimla mirch, also called Bell Pepper, appeared online around early August 2019. Because of the accompanying health warning messages, in no time, the video went viral on social media sites like Facebook.

    • The worm inside Capsicum is indeed so thin and white, it can go unnoticed. However, worms inside vegetables are not uncommon – they can also appear inside Capsicum like shown in video below.

      Earlier in 2017, similar video went viral online claiming to show a dangerous Tapeworm living inside Cabbage. Back then also accompanying messages warned people to stop eating the leafy vegetable Cabbage.

      About the Worm and Its Dangers

      Firstly, we did not find any credible report warning about dangers of such an invisible thin worm inside vegetables like Capsicum and Cabbage. Cooking the vegetables and human digestive acids after consumption usually take care of worms like it. Back in 2017, when the video of ‘dangerous’ worm inside Cabbage went viral, media channel VTV Gujarati investigated into the matter. When contacted, vegetable sellers said they did not come across any such worm inside Cabbage. They consulted plant experts to know more about the worm.

      The expert said the thin white worm inside cabbage is not Tapeworm and is some other species. Helminths like Tapeworms, Pinworms and Roundworms are in fact Parasitic worms usually living inside and feeding on living hosts like Humans and Insects. That reminds us of a disturbing video showing doctors removing Intestinal Parasitic Worms from a human patient.

      The thin white worm inside Capsicum (Shimla mirch) and Cabbage is most likely some kind of Nematode worm like here. In reality, there are thousands of types of Nematode worms, some of which are parasitic to Insects and Arthropods. It is possible what you see in the video is a juvenile parasitic Nematode worm (similar to Gordian worms), which left its host insect that somehow ended up inside the vegetable Capsicum or Cabbage.

      Similar thin long white worm found in garden

      Thin Worm Inside Brinjal

      Below is another old video from September 2016 showing similar nematode worm inside Brinjal vegetable. Note, vegetables like Capsicum are also affected by Root knot nematodes. Again, there’s the less-likely possibility, someone put the worm inside the vegetables to scare people and warn not to eat them.

      So, the thin white worm inside capsicum (shimla mirch) and cabbage isn’t any dangerous snake. Ingestion of such plant worms through cooked food is not often harmful to humans. Even in case of some infections and infestations, they can be treated well in initial stages.

      For your information, some false messages and unrelated videos online warned eating Cabbage causes Brain tapeworm. Medical experts clarified the misconception that eating cabbage can cause the deadly brain tapeworm (Neurocysticercosis).

      Caution Before Cooking Vegetables

      Although the warning about dangerous worm inside capsicum and cabbage is not entirely true, worms of other kind do grow inside vegetables. The larvae and eggs of other harmful parasitic worms can stay on vegetables and enter human body if not treated properly. So, consumers are always advised to be watchful while cutting vegetables, wash them well preferably in hot water, and cook food properly.

      Hoax or Fact:

      Mixture of Hoax and Facts.

      About Parasites

      The chewed up jalapeño pepper

      You’ll never believe what I found eating my jalapeños. It’s a hot pepper so you would think that it would be protected from hungry critters. But, that is not always the case.

      I planted my jalapeño peppers in containers this year. They were grown in part shade just along the edge of my driveway. I have four plants and they are growing 10-15 peppers each thus far. I picked my first batch of peppers this weekend to give to a friend. As I was picking them Saturday morning, I noticed that there were were two of them that appeared to have been chewed on.

      Now you would think that a hot pepper has enough chemical protection to avoid getting eaten, but obviously that is not the case. After looking around the plant a bit, I discovered this huge guy hanging around as still as can be.

      You may recognize him – but you would normally expect to see him on your tomatoes. He’s obviously been feasting because he is huge!

      Tomato hornworm

      The Tomato Hornworm

      Since these are container plantings and I have not grown peppers in them before, the obvious question is how did these worms get there? Tomato hornworms are the larval stage of the tomato hornworm moth. These brown colored moths will lay eggs on plants in early spring and the caterpillar will begin to feed after hatching in about a week.

      The caterpillars feed for several weeks (they are voracious eaters – I have seen one worm strip an entire tomato plant) before creating cocoons in which they will spend the winter. In the spring, the moths will emerge and start the process all over again.

      Signs of Hornworms

      The obvious sign that you have hornworms are leaves, stems, and fruit that appear to have been chewed on. There may also be caterpillar droppings on the leaves of the plant – so keep an eye out for this telltale sign. The caterpillars are green which is excellent camouflage, so check the underside of your leaves carefully to find them. I often look for leaves that are stuck together or drooping in an unusual way. The weight of these caterpillars will often give them away.

      How to Get Rid of Tomato Hornworms

      I don’t use chemicals in my garden if I can help it, so the way I took care of these worms was to find them, remove them, and toss them on the concrete for some lucky bird to eat. You’ll need to inspect the plant carefully and probably frequently to make sure that you got them all.

      To prevent any of the larvae that may have already gone in to the cocoon stage from becoming next year’s garden pests, be sure to till up your soil each year before you plant. The caterpillars make their cocoons in the soil, so this will kill them before they have a chance to hatch.

      Tomato Hornworm Parasites

      If you find a tomato hornworm that looks like this one does, it has been parasitized by the larvae of a wasp. The wasp larvae will eventually kill the hornworm. These worm larvae are nature’s pest control.

      Parasitized Tomato Hornworm

      Regardless of the caterpillars, I was able to harvest a good amount of peppers for this first picking and I look forward to more soon!

      My jalapeno pepper harvest

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