Pepper Maggot Life Cycle

Zonosemata electa is the technical name for pepper maggots, which are closely related to apple maggots. The adult flies only produce one generation a year, and lay their eggs directly into the pepper. These eggs will develop into little white maggots, who spend their life cycle eating the interior of the fruit. When they are ready to pupate, they exit the fruit at the blossom end and leave little tiny holes.  The maggot then pupates in the soil, and will overwinter in the soil before emerging the following year as an adult fly. While they prefer peppers, they have been known to lay eggs in tomatoes and eggplants.


Depending on the season, the adults emerge in mid- to- late July and will lay eggs in the fruit for a few weeks. Pepper maggot flies are smaller than a house fly, have bright yellow bodies with three yellow stripes just below their head. They have green eyes, and clear wings with a distinct banding pattern.

Adult flies are attracted to the color yellow, using yellow sticky traps will help you monitor when adults are emerging. Place yellow stick traps around your garden in mid-June. As soon as you see one of the pepper maggot flies, start to use diatomaceous earth on the fruit and the flowers buds. Continue to use this product until mid-to-late August.

If you usually only grow sweet peppers you can plant hot peppers, like cherry bombs, as a host plant. Pepper maggots LOVE hot peppers, and will go to a hot pepper before a sweet pepper. Try planting a border of hot peppers to attract the fly to them instead of your sweet peppers. Keep an eye out for tiny lesions or scars, as this is where the adults have laid their eggs. When you see this, pluck the fruit off and throw them out.

If you do have any fruits that have fallen on the ground, make sure to clean them up so the maggots do not overwinter in the ground. At the end of season, clean your vegetable beds thoroughly of any left-over plant debris. It is a very good practice to clean vegetable beds thoroughly in fall as many bugs and fungus can overwinter in the soil on debris.