9 Animals That Love To Eat Pepper Plants & How To Stop Them

Jalapeno pepper growing in the garden.

Pepper plants are a great addition to your vegetable garden because they come in a variety of colors and flavors. Whether they’re sweet or spicy, they can add a punch of flavor to your meal and keep it packed with nutrients!

There are many different animals that love to eat garden plants. Below are 10 animals that could be eating or damaging the pepper plants in your garden:

  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels
  • Deer
  • Caterpillars
  • Birds
  • Groundhogs
  • Skunks
  • Aphids
  • Pepper Weevils

Let’s take a closer look at each of these animals and see why they’re attracted to your garden, what damage they can do, and, most importantly, how you can get rid of them once and for all!

Key Takeaways:

  • Pepper plants come in a variety of types ranging from sweet to spicy
  • Various animals like groundhogs, rabbits, and birds will eat or damage your pepper plants
  • Damage and repellent techniques will differ depending on what animal is responsible.

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1. Rabbits Love Pepper Plants

Rabbits are a common pest to your garden and will munch on a variety of vegetable and fruit plants if they aren’t protected. When it comes to your pepper plants specifically, these critters especially love bell peppers and are happy to crunch on them until their bellies are full.

Signs Of Rabbit Damage

Rabbit activity is usually pretty easy to spot. Between their worn, frequently used pathways and any droppings that they leave behind, you’ll be able to identify if rabbits are the culprits eating your pepper plants.

The University of Missouri tells us that rabbits leave behind telltale signs that distinguish them from other animals including pea-sized droppings and clean bites on plants that leave a 45-degree angle cut.

Other plants in your garden may be attracting rabbits as well. Take a look at our article on the plants rabbits eat to see if you have any favorites attracting these hopping thieves.

Repelling Rabbits By Sealing Entry Points

Seal your garden entry points. If you close off your garden, that’s the first step in working to deter any unwelcome visitors. Adding a fence around your garden perimeter, or specific plants adds an extra layer of protection against hungry pests like rabbits. 

Keep in mind that rabbits are known for digging under fences to secure a quick passageway, so using a fencing material that allows you to be able to bury the fence a couple of inches underground will be most effective. 

Once the rabbits realize that they can’t go under or over the fence, they’ll move on to somewhere else that has access to an easier food source. 

Strong Scents Can Repel Rabbits From Pepper Plants

Add strong scents to your garden. The speed at which a bunny’s nose moves is adorable at times, but you want to do everything you can to keep that nose out of your garden. 

There are certain scents that rabbits don’t tolerate very well and will stay away from. For an all-natural scent addition, you can spread powdered red pepper around the perimeter of your plants to keep rabbits away. 

Red pepper isn’t the only scent that will keep pesky rabbits away! You can read more about the scents that rabbits hate here.

We’ve also talked about how effective Irish Spring Bar Soap can be as a pest deterrent, and it will work well with rabbits too. If your shower bar soap has a strong scent, as it starts to shrink and gets too small to handle, consider transferring it to your garden as an extra deterrent!  

2. Squirrels Munch On Peppers

Squirrel sitting on the green grass with leaves around and looking for your pepper plants

Squirrels are an interesting pest to your garden, especially when it comes to pepper plants.

In addition to stealing the peppers right off the plants and bringing the produce with them to eat elsewhere, squirrels will also eat the roots of these plants, killing them in their entirety and leaving you harvestless.

Use Spice To Deter Squirrels

Squirrels may be okay with stealing sweet peppers, but they’ll leave the hot peppers alone. Planting some hot peppers in your garden could be a good preventative measure against squirrels eating your other plants!

You can sprinkle some spicy pepper seeds around your pepper plants, and once the squirrels begin to nibble, they’re likely to turn away and keep out of your garden because of the flavor of the seeds. 

Another “spice” option that may be a little easier to manage is a capsaicin spray. Bonide’s Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent is an excellent choice. This spray is organic and when sprayed directly on your plants helps repel several pests. 

The other good news is that your pepper plants are still 100% safe to eat as capsaicin is harmless to humans! 

Remove Other Squirrel Food Sources To Keep Them Away

There are several fruits, vegetables, seeds, and other items from your garden and yard that squirrels are happy to eat, so less is sometimes more when it comes to these critters. We have a list of the 11 plants that squirrels eat to give you an idea of what may be attracting them (besides your peppers!).

To help discourage squirrels from coming to your yard and finding your garden, try keeping your garden tidy from any fallen produce, and keep a cover on any composting bins that may be nearby. 

Removing, or at least relocating, any bird feeders to the outer corners of your yard will also help deter these pests from making their way into your garden for a feast. 

3. Deer Are Known For Eating Peppers

Deer are another common pest in your garden. In addition to your pepper plants, these creatures are willing and very capable of consuming a good deal of the plants in your garden, leaving you without your desired harvest.

How To Repel Deer From Pepper Plants

Deer aren’t confrontational creatures, so if they spot you, or any other potential predator, they’re likely to run the other way without looking back. Since you aren’t able to keep your eyes on your garden 24/7 though, here are some other tips to keep deer away from your pepper plants. 

  • Add motion-sensing lights: If you have a nearby power source to add a motion-sensing light, the bright light in the evening may be just enough to scare the deer and keep them from snacking on your pepper plants. 

In addition to deer, adding a light may also help deter other jumpy visitors from your garden during the evening hours. 

  • Use deer-deterring scents: Deer have a powerful sense of smell, so anything that may help distract them from locating a food source is a good thing.

Here are some common (and delicious) herbs that you could add to your garden to deter deer from entering:

  • Garlic
  • Mint
  • Chili pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano 

In addition to these natural scents, vinegar has shown promise in deterring deer. You can read all about how to use vinegar to repel deer here!

4. Caterpillars Feast On Pepper Plants

Green caterpillar on a leaf

These critters can cause quite a lot of damage for their relatively small size. And while they’re most likely to feed off the leaves of your pepper plants, that doesn’t mean that they won’t eat all parts of the plants if they’re given the time and opportunity.

How To Prevent Caterpillars From Eating Your Peppers

Whether you like the hands-on approach or are a little more of the stand-off type, we’ve got a recommendation for each type of reader here.

  • Use an insect barrier: You’ll want to ensure you get rid of any caterpillars on your plants first before using this option. Otherwise, you might be entrapping the caterpillars and making the problem worse.

Once any current caterpillar population has been removed, try out an insect barrier like Faraer Garden Netting that covers your plants and protects them from caterpillars and other insects.

  • Pick them off: This option may not be the best for those faint of heart. But if you’re up for the challenge, you can pick individual caterpillars off your pepper plants and drop them into some soapy water to rid yourself of their presence. 

Caterpillars aren’t just pepper pests – they love eating almost any type of leaf! If you have problems with them in your garden, you can read about what to do about caterpillars here.

5. Birds Love Peppers

This one may be a surprising one on our list for some folks. You’re thinking, “Will birds eat my pepper plants?”

They’ve made our list, so of course the answer is yes, but these flying creatures, like many others, will go in for your sweet pepper plants specifically. And because of their ground and air capabilities, you may think that there’s no way to deter birds, but we’ve got a few tips to help minimize their damage.

But first, here’s a list of common birds you need to watch out for that have their eyes on your pepper plants!

Bird SpeciesPlant Damage Characteristics
SparrowsPeck at ripening peppers, leaving small, shallow holes
StarlingsPull off and consume immature peppers, leaving behind ragged, torn fruit
BlackbirdsFeed on ripe peppers, causing large, irregular holes and extensive damage
RobinsMay peck at ripe peppers, leaving shallow, irregular marks
ThrashersConsume entire small peppers, leaving behind cleanly severed stems
MockingbirdsMay peck at peppers, leaving shallow, irregular marks
JaysConsume ripe peppers, leaving behind jagged, torn fruit
PigeonsPeck at peppers, leaving behind shallow, irregular marks
CardinalsOccasionally peck at peppers, leaving shallow, irregular marks

What To Do About Birds Eating Your Pepper Plants

Here are three recommendations for keeping birds off your pepper plants:

  1. Relocate your bird feeder: If you have a bird feeder in your yard, its sole purpose is to bring a variety of birds to your yard for a meal. Move it far away from your pepper plants!
  2. Cage your plants: Try something like Gardener’s Supply Sturdy Metal Cage for your pepper plants or any other plants that are being destroyed or eaten in your garden. Since these are made of chicken wire, even if birds land on top of the cage, they aren’t able to get to your plant for a snack. 
  3. Get a fake owl: Or any other imitation bird predator. We have a great source of information on how to use a fake owl or scarecrow.

Birds are naturally scared of shapes that resemble owls, snakes, and even scarecrows because they are potential predators in their natural environment. Strategically placing some of these fake predators in or near your garden will help scare off and keep birds away. 

6. Groundhogs Adore Peppers

Groundhog sitting in an open meadow looking for pepper plants

Groundhogs will eat several fruits and veggies that may be growing in your garden and are more likely to eat the produce itself as opposed to the leaves.

Since groundhogs tunnel underground, in addition to eating your peppers, they may also ruin the root system of your plants as they tunnel.

How To Keep Groundhogs From Destroying Your Peppers

  • Close off tunnels: You’ll want to be sure to keep an eye out for any holes in your garden or yard and fill them as soon as you can. In addition to groundhogs, gophers, moles, and other tunneling creatures can quickly cause damage to your garden plants without being spotted.

If you see a deep hole that could be used for tunneling, use a tunnel fill product like Wonder Soil Expanding Spiced Tunnel Fill to stop these creatures from creating underground damage. 

  • Bury your fencing: While fencing is a great deterrent for many garden pests, fencing poses a unique challenge to groundhogs and other tunneling pests. 

If you decide to add a fence to your garden or certain individual plants, to be most effective, you’ll want to bury your fence about twelve inches – or more! – underground so that it can effectively keep tunneling animals out. 

Strong scents can be used to repel groundhogs as well. If you would like to learn more, you should check out our article on the scents that groundhogs hate!

7. Skunks eat peppers

skunk on a patch of green grass

Skunks aren’t too picky about what they eat, so seeing them making their exit from your garden shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. This animal is willing to eat fruits, veggies, insects, and even smaller animals, depending on what is available.

Their favorites in your garden range from beans, squash, and – you guessed it- your pepper plants. While skunks will steer clear of any hot pepper, they will gladly snack on your bell pepper plants without a care in the world. 

How To Deter Skunks From Your Pepper Plants

Nobody wants to get sprayed by a skunk, so be mindful when planning your course of action for handling an unwanted skunk. If you’re not sure you’re up for the task, never hesitate to reach out to a pest professional with our nationwide pest control finder for assistance in getting rid of one or many skunks.

If you’re up for the challenge though, we’ve got some recommendations on preventative measures as well. 

  • Add lighting: Skunks are nocturnal, so they’re most active during the evening hours. A bright light may be enough to scare away a skunk. If your garden is near your house, you might consider leaving your back porch light on. You can also use a variety of scare tactics, which you can learn about in our article on sounds and noises that scare skunks.
  • Seal Openings: Close off any openings under your patio, shed, porch, or any outdoor area that may have an opening below it. Skunks will look for areas like this to stay for a few days and then extend their stay if a food source is readily available nearby. If you’re unsure whether a skunk is hiding under your porch, you can read about the signs of a skunk den here.
  • Use a live trap. Don’t get us wrong, you have to be comfortable with catch and release before you look at this one as a potential solution, and with skunks, placing live traps can have its own set of potential hazards.

If you decide to go this route, make sure you check with your local wildlife area preserve and ensure there aren’t any fines for catching and ultimately releasing skunks back into wildlife. 

8. Aphids love pepper plants

These little bugs may not look like they can do much damage to your plants, but if they’re left to their devices, they can quickly kill your pepper plant and other crops you may have growing in your garden.

If you notice sticky black globs on your plant leaves or that your plants look sick and the leaves are curling with yellowish hues, you may have an aphid problem. 

Aphids are attracted to more than just your pepper plants. You can read more about what attracts aphids to your garden here.

What To Do About Aphids On Your Pepper Plants

If you spot an aphid infestation, taking action as soon as they’re spotted is important since these bugs reproduce so quickly. To keep these insects off your plants, going straight to the source and removing them is the best option.

  • Water. I know what you’re thinking: “Water? I need a little more information here.” It might be hard to believe, but sometimes watering your plants may be exactly what’s needed to dislodge aphids from your plants. Then, once these bugs are off, they aren’t usually able to find the same plant. 

Now, this solution may not fix the problem if you have a full-on aphid infestation, but it will help get these bugs off your plants which is the first step in any treatment plan.

  • Treat plant leaves. Insecticidal soaps and oils are the best treatment options for aphids. Canola oil can be used to wipe down your plant leaves and the oil will help smother the aphid and remove it from the plant.

If you use a treatment like canola oil or another oil-based insecticide, applications will need to be repeated to ensure maximum effectiveness. 

9. Pepper Weevils Eat Pepper Plants

pepper weevil sitting on a white flower

That’s right – this one has it right in the name. These bugs are small and black with a long nose. Despite their color, this pest can be surprisingly hard to detect because they hide inside the flower buds and destroy the plant from the inside out.

How To Keep Pepper Weevils Off Your Peppers

Taking the proper preventative measures in pest control is always a good first step, and it’s not any different with pepper weevils. 

  • Keep your garden tidy. If you notice that peppers have fallen from the plant or that there are damaged peppers still hanging on your plant, remove them as soon as you see them. This helps to reduce easy food access to weevils.
  • Use sticky traps. Try Gideal Dual-Sided Yellow Sticky Traps to help determine how large of an infestation you may have. These traps help catch many insect-like pests in your garden and are nontoxic and waterproof!
  • Use an insecticide. While you can use an insecticide to help rid your pepper plants of weevils, this can be a challenge since they tend to start in the flower buds. As a result, you need to be careful not to harm the flower and deter the plant’s pollination.

We recommend getting in touch with your local pest professional for a list of available insecticides in your area that can help treat the weevil problem while not posing any harm to helpful insects like bees. 

That’s A Wrap!

Here’s a quick recap on the most likely culprits causing damage to the pepper plants in your garden:

  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels
  • Deer
  • Caterpillars
  • Birds
  • Groundhogs
  • Skunks
  • Aphids
  • Pepper Weevils 

All of these animals will eat your sweet pepper plants over the spicy ones.

Even though each animal has their unique recommendations for treatment, there are a few preventative measures like keeping your garden tidy, adding powerful scents, and adding physical barriers that can be used to keep these pests – and more – out of your garden.


DeWitt, D., & Bosland, P. W. (1993). The pepper garden. Ten Speed Press.

Herman, M. A. B., Nault, B. A., & Smart, C. D. (2008). Effects of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria on bell pepper production and green peach aphid infestations in New York. Crop Protection27(6), 996-1002.

Hulick, K. (2016). The cool science of hot peppers.

Weintraub, P. G. (2007). Integrated control of pests in tropical and subtropical sweet pepper production. Pest Management Science: formerly Pesticide Science63(8), 753-760.

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