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RMD-10-28: Anthonomus eugenii (pepper weevil)

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Date Issued: 2011-02-15


As described by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) includes three stages: initiation, pest risk assessment and pest risk management. Initiating the PRA process involves identifying pests and pathways of concern and defining the PRA area. Pest risk assessment provides the scientific basis for the overall management of risk. Pest risk management is the process of identifying and evaluating potential mitigation measures which may be applied to reduce the identified pest risk to acceptable levels and selecting appropriate measures.

This Risk Management Document (RMD) includes a summary of the findings of a pest risk assessment and records the pest risk management process for the identified issue. It is consistent with the principles, terminology and guidelines provided in the IPPC standards for pest risk analysis.

Table of Contents


Anthonomus eugenii (pepper weevil) is a native North American pest. The pepper weevil was native to Mexico but has spread throughout Central America and southern United States (U.S.). It is a pest of plants in the family Solanaceae, but is recognized around the world as a serious pest of pepper production.

Canada imports large volumes of fresh peppers from countries such as the U.S. and Mexico, where pepper weevil is widespread. Pepper weevil is a not regulated by either the US or Mexico and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no domestic requirements to limit its spread within the U.S.

Many Canadian greenhouses import peppers from the U.S. and Mexico and this is thought to be the main pathway for this pest to move into Canadian pepper greenhouses. At present, Canada has no pepper weevil-related phytosanitary requirements for imported pepper fruit. Of Canadian pepper exports, approximately 99 % of fresh, greenhouse-grown and field peppers are shipped to the U.S.

Pepper weevil was detected for the first time in Canada in 1992. At that time the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) decided not to regulate this insect. This decision was based on the fact that pepper weevil is a tropical pest and not expected to survive year round in Canada. At that time it was also determined that this pest could be managed by industry. Various control measures are available and evidence shows it is possible to eradicate this pest from greenhouses. In addition, greenhouses that do not pack imported peppers in close proximity to their greenhouse pepper crops are unlikely to introduce this pest to their production areas. However, it is not inconceivable that infestations could spread from infested greenhouse operations into outdoor crops or into other greenhouses, especially during the summer months. Greenhouses in Canada have open vents which are not screened, so there is no physical barrier to prevent insects from moving into and out of greenhouses.

In 2010 pepper weevil was detected in several pepper greenhouses in Ontario. The CFIA decided that, it would be prudent to have a closer look at the risk posed by this pest and to document the regulatory decision and improve transparency on this issue. In May 2010, a Pest Categorisation was completed. Although the Pest Categorisation determined that Anthonomus eugenii Cano, pepper weevil, does meet the minimum criteria defining a quarantine pest, the evaluation of various other risk management considerations have led CFIA to determine that no regulatory action is necessary with respect to this pest in Canada.

The CFIA has prepared this Risk Management Document (RMD) to record the decision that although the pepper weevil has many of the characteristics of a quarantine pest, best management practices could be applied to help prevent the introduction of this pest and integrated pest management measures are available for controlling it when it does appear. It is not in the best interest of Canadian industry or the CFIA to regulate it.

1.0 Purpose

The purpose of this document is:

2.0 Scope

This risk management decision document summarizes the CFIA decision to not regulate the pepper weevil, Anthonomus eugenii Cano, in Canada.

3.0 Definitions

Definitions for terms used in this document can be found in the Plant Health Glossary of Terms or the IPPC Glossary of Phytosanitary Terms.

4.0 Background

The CFIA Pest Categorization for the pepper weevil was completed in May 2010. It indicates that pepper weevil is a serious pest of peppers, but that it would not survive winters outdoors in Canada. It is therefore unlikely to spread without human assistance among Canadian greenhouse operations during cold weather. During warmer months there is the possibility that this pest could spread from infested greenhouse facilities to neighbouring greenhouses or to field grown pepper crops.

Pepper weevil is thought to be indigenous to Mexico. It has spread throughout most of Central America and the Caribbean, and to the southern part of the United States (U.S.). It is considered absent in the European Union (EU) countries.

The U.S. does not regulate A. eugenii as this species is established in the southern U.S. It is not under official control and is therefore not considered a quarantine pest. A. eugenii has recently been added to the A1 quarantine list of European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO), but is not a quarantine pest for any other Regional plant protection organization.

There is a large volume of two way trade of fresh peppers between Canada and the U.S. Canada also imports a significant volume of peppers from Mexico

5.0 Pest Risk Assessment Summary

A Pest Categorization to determine whether Anthonomus eugenii Cano, pepper weevil, meets the criteria for definition as a quarantine pest was completed in May 2010. A data sheet prepared by EPPO on pepper weevil was also reviewed. The following sections present the summary of these works.

5.1 Pest Biology

5.1.1 Life History

Egg-to-adult development time at 26-28°C is about 14 days in Capsicum annuum and Solanum americanum.( Patrock and Schuster, 1992) In the laboratory, the egg stage takes 3.6 days, the larval stage 9.5 days, the pupal stage 3.3 days and the adult stage 3.14 days (egg to adult 16.4 days) (Gordon and Armstrong, 1990). In Florida, development from egg to adult takes approximately 21 days and adults are found during every month of the year except December and January. The winter is usually spent on weeds or old pepper plants. No diapause is observed (Elmore et aliae, 1934). Overwintering adults can live for 10 months, but survival is only 2-3 months in the summer.

5.1.2 Host Range

Pepper weevil is an insect pest of plants in the family Solanaceae. Although the adult prefers to oviposit on plants in the genera Capsicum and Solanum, it will feed on other Solanaceae such as Physalis, Lycopersicon, Datura, Petunia, and Nicotiana. All varieties of pepper are susceptible to attack. Several species of nightshade also support pepper weevil, particularly black nightshade, Solanum nigrum, silverleaf nightshade, S. elaeagnifolium, horsenettle, S. carolinense, buffalo bur, S. rostratum, and Jerusalem cherry, S. pseudocapsicum.

5.1.3 Symptoms

Adult pepper weevils feed on fruit and leaf buds and lay eggs on flowers, buds and fruit. Early signs of the presence of the insect include small holes in immature fruits and small circular holes (2-5 mm) in leaves. Larvae (grubs) feed on seeds and other tissue in the developing fruits (Costello and Gillespie, 1993). This feeding causes premature fruit drop. Pepper weevil adults also feed externally on blossom buds and tender pods (young fruit). However, the adults do not cause as much damage as the larvae which feed within the buds and pods. Infested buds and blossoms fall from plants. The larvae usually feed at the seed core, but occasionally tunnel in the walls of pods. Infested peppers are black inside and filled with frass. Infestations are usually not noticed until the stems of young peppers yellow and wither, and the fruit start to drop. By the time a few fallen pods are noticed, serious damage has occurred already and many more pods can be expected to drop in the following 10 days. Some infested pods turn red or yellow prematurely and may become malformed before dropping to the ground. In areas where the insect is endemic and best management practices are not used, entire pepper fields, when infested, may be plowed under because too few fruits are left to harvest, and the infestation could pose a threat to later pepper plantings.

5.2 Distribution

The insect is probably native to Mexico, although it has spread through Central America, the Caribbean and to the southern U.S.. It has been reported in the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas.

Pepper weevil populations persist only where food plants are available throughout the year, thus largely limiting its distribution to the southern states in the U.S., where peppers are grown in the outdoors, year-round. This weevil has sometimes, however, been found in some northern locations in the U.S., for example in Virginia (Shultz & Kuhar 2008), because transplants are shipped northward each spring. The pepper weevil is capable of establishing in indoor environments even in climates where it would not survive outdoors.

5.3 Pathways

Pepper weevil could be introduced to Canada by the importation of infested pepper fruit, pepper transplants, and used pepper crates/packing boxes. The CFIA currently prohibits the import of pepper plants from all countries other than the continental U.S. The potential for transportation with other solanaceous crops or flowers is unknown, but is likely to be significantly lower than with peppers.

5.3.1 Entry Potential Fresh Peppers for Consumption

Fresh peppers are considered a high risk pathway for the spread of pepper weevil. The probability of this pest being associated with this pathway at origin as larvae or eggs is high for infested areas of the U.S., Mexico and infested Caribbean countries. Nearly 78% of Canada's imported peppers come from the U.S. ($81 million) and Mexico ($87 million), where this insect is established.

It is common practice for Canadian production facilities to repack and/or distribute imported pepper fruit. This is a high risk activity if the imported fruit comes from infested countries and is a likely pathway for the introduction of this pest into Canadian greenhouses. Outdoor markets that sell peppers from infested countries and are located in areas with suitable summer conditions for survival of the pepper weevil, may pose a risk for field grown host crops.

Although this pest can spread only over limited distances naturally, adults would be able to move between contiguous greenhouses. Fruits of capsicums, and possibly aubergines (eggplant), infested with larval weevils are the primary means of long distance transportation. Weevils can also be spread when they are inadvertently transported on plants with small fruits or on picking sacks from areas of high insect prevalence. Adults can survive prolonged cool conditions (2-5°C) for over 3 weeks and therefore could survive long distance transportation under refrigerated conditions.

5.3.2 Establishment Potential

Pepper weevil could establish in indoor environments in Canada, including greenhouses. Canada does not have a suitable outdoor climate for permanent establishment of this pest because of its inability to survive our winter conditions. However, if it becomes established indoors, during the warmer weather this insect could migrate from greenhouses and temporarily establish outdoors.

The pepper weevil has established in Canadian greenhouse facilities on a number of occasions. In summer of 1992 an established population of the pepper weevil was discovered in a greenhouse in British Columbia. The outbreak was subsequently eradicated (Costello & Gillespie, 1993). In the fall of 2009 pepper weevil was reported in six greenhouses in the Leamington area of Ontario. Imported fresh peppers are the suspected pathway, but this has not been verified.

Various pesticides have been used to control infestations. Yellow sticky cards can be used to monitor populations (Riley & Schuster, 1994). Pheromone extracts are used to bait monitoring traps. In Canada, successful eradication was achieved by clearing the greenhouse of all crop residues, spraying with hydrated lime, removing all standing water, maintaining 20°C or over for at least 10 days and fumigating with a variety of products (Costello & Gillespie, 1993)

Outdoor populations are not expected to survive through the winter. The risk rating related to establishment potential is therefore high indoors, and negligible outdoors.

5.3.3 Spread Potential

The risk of spread is rated as medium since there is the potential that pepper weevil could spread and infest greenhouses in close proximity to infested outdoor fields or other infested greenhouses during warm weather. Management practices that could restrict the entry of pepper weevil into greenhouses, such as screening vents and other openings, are not commonly in use by the Canadian greenhouse industry.

Many production greenhouses in Canada also repackage and distribute pepper fruit produced at other Canadian greenhouses or imported from infested countries. The import of fresh peppers from infested countries is the suspected source of the previous infestations of this pest within Canada. Greenhouse facilities that import peppers from infested areas are likely to encounter pepper weevil.

5.4 Potential Economic and Environmental Consequences

If pepper weevils were to establish outdoors in Canada we would not expect to see any resulting environmental damage. If it becomes established in a greenhouse, there will be costs to control the pest. The only currently known effective eradication method is complete crop destruction and greenhouse sanitation. Pepper weevil infested greenhouse facilities following best management practices can minimize the risk of introducing this pest, use integrated measures to control this pest and continue pepper production. There would be no significant effect on market access if a transient population were to establish seasonally in Canada as there would be no response from the U.S. impacting trade with Canada.

6.0 Risk Management Considerations

Greenhouse peppers are an important industry to Canada. In 2009, peppers were exported for a value of over $173 million (Statistics Canada, 2009) of which approximately 99% were sold to the U.S. (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada [AAFC], 2009). Canadian producers also exported $12 million worth of field peppers to the U.S. in 2009.

In 2009 Canada imported $79 million worth of field and greenhouse peppers from the U.S. and $85 million worth of field and greenhouse peppers from Mexico. Both the U.S. and Mexico are pepper weevil infested countries. If Canada were to regulate pepper weevil, the import trade from the U.S. and Mexico would be significantly impacted because of the requirement for phytosanitary certificates and import inspections.

The introduction of pepper weevil would have an impact on greenhouse facilities. Pest management strategies are available to eradicate this insect, however, crop management in pepper greenhouses relies mainly on the use of biological control agents. The use of pesticides is often restricted to specific situations where biological control agents are ineffective at controlling a pest. Restricted use of pesticides is necessary for the survival of biological control agents. If pepper weevils were to be introduced in a greenhouse, growers would have to modify their production practices to control the pest, which would be detrimental to the biological control agents.

Pepper fruit is clearly an important pathway for spreading this pest from infested areas into Canadian greenhouses. Once introduced it may migrate to neighbouring greenhouses or field crops during the summer. The industry has, however, successfully employed Best Management Practices to prevent introduction and to mitigate the damage to infested crops. It is also important to note that some growers usually perform greenhouse sanitation between crops, and that recently infested Canadian facilities have sufficiently suppressed pepper weevil to allow crop production to proceed.

If the CFIA were to regulate this pest, regulation of all peppers from infested countries would be necessary. The requirement for phytosanitary certification would have an economic impact on trade and utilize CFIA resources.

7.0 Risk Management Decision

In the 1990s, the CFIA decided not to regulate pepper weevil because it is not able to establish outdoors in Canada and because it is present and widespread in southern North America and because it is not a regulated pest to the U.S. or Mexico. This decision is consistent with the approach taken by Canada's North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO) partners. The CFIA has reviewed the scientific and economic information that is currently available and has decided to maintain the status quo and not regulate pepper weevil. This RMD is intended to document this decision and make information about this pest and about the decision not to regulate it available to internal and external stakeholders.

The CFIA will encourage stakeholders to adopt appropriate production management practices to minimize the risk of introducing this insect and to reduce the impact of the insect when it is introduced. Importers will be advised to avoid bringing peppers from infested countries into the vicinity of production areas

The CFIA will continue to allow the importation of pepper fruit from infested countries and will not put specific phytosanitary import requirements in place to prevent the introduction of pepper weevil to Canada.

The produce industry will continue to have unrestricted market access to imported fresh peppers from countries where pepper weevil is known to occur. Export trade with existing major US market is not expected to be impacted by this decision to not regulate pepper weevil. Detections of pepper weevil in Canada will not trigger quarantine actions by the CFIA.

8.0 Stakeholder Communications

The following stakeholders will be notified of the risk management decision that was made in the 1990's and upheld during this review.

In addition, the CFIA intends to work in partnership with provincial agricultural ministries and industry stakeholders to encourage the development of best management practices to mitigate the risk of introducing this pest into Canadian greenhouses and to prepare strategies for managing this pest should it be detected.

9.0 References

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 2009. Canada's Pepper Industry Report.

Ameen, A. 2010. Pest Categorization, Anthonomus eugenii, pepper weevil. Plant Health Risk Assessment Unit, Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Anonymous. 1995. The Pepper Weevil and its Management. Publication L-5069. Prepared by Riley D. G. & A. N. Sparks. Texas Agricultural Extension Service. The Texas A & M University.

Anonymous. 2006. Crop Profile for Greenhouse Peppers in Canada. Prepared by Pesticide Risk Reduction Program, Pest Management Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

Capinera, J. L. 2008. Pepper Weevil, Anthonomus eugenii Cano (Insecta: Coleoptera: Curculionidae). Document is EENY-278 (IN555), one of a series of Featured Creatures from the Entomology and Nematology Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Published, November 2002. Revised, September 2008.

Costello, R.A.; Gillespie, D.R. (1993) The pepper weevil, Anthonomus eugenii as a greenhouse pest in Canada. Bulletin SROP 16, 31-34.

Elmore, J.C.; Davis, A.C.; Campbell, R.E. (1934) The pepper weevil. USDA Technical Bulletin No. 447.

European Plant Protection Organization (EPPO). Data Sheets on Quarantine Pests. Anthonomus eugenii Cano - pepper weevil

Gordon, R., Armstrong, A.,M. (1990) Biology of the pepper weevil, Anthonomus eugenii in Puerto Rico. Journal of the University of Puerto Rico 74, 69-73.

IPPC. 2006. International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures 1 to 27 (2006 Edition). Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.

Patrock, R. J.; Schuster, D. J. (1992) Feeding, oviposition and development of the pepper weevil (Anthonomus eugenii) on selected species of Solanaceace. Tropical Pest Management 38, 65-69.

Riley, D. G.; Schuster, D.J. (1994) Pepper weevil adult response to coloured sticky traps in pepper fields. Southwest Entomologist 19, 93-107.

Riley, D.G.; Sparks, A.N. The Pepper Weevil and Its Management L-5069. Texas Agricultural Extension Service Bulletin

Shultz, P. B. & T. P. Kuhar. 2008. First Record of Pepper Weevil Infestation in Virginia. Plant Management Network. Published online at Accessed, May 11, 2010.

Triplehorn, C. A. & N. F. Johnson. 2005. Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th Edition. Brooks Cole Publishing, Canada. 864 pages

10.0 Endorsement

Approved by:

Chief Plant Health Officer

Date modified: