Montana Public Radio

Bug Bytes: The Story Of Pepe

Jun 15, 2020

It was a cold, snowy New Year’s Day in western Montana. What better way to kick off a new year of meals than making a pot of chili?

After purchasing the onions and variety of peppers going into our meal, we began the preparation process. But cutting into what appeared to be an unblemished green pepper, we surprisingly found a little friend staring back at us.

Only one-eighth of an inch long, with a dark body and a long, slightly curved snout ,we had discovered the aptly named pepper weevil…very much alive and well. Of course, we named him Pepe.

Pepe the Pepper Weevil enjoying a pepper extravaganza.
Credit Glenn Marangelo

Thought to have originated in Mexico, pepper weevils can now be found throughout most of Central America, the Caribbean and the southern United States…pretty much anywhere peppers can be grown year-round. Since we ship different foods from across the country and around the world, it’s not hard to imagine that insects sometimes hitch a ride on or inside fruits or vegetables.

Female pepper weevils lay eggs in holes they create in pepper buds or in the base of young pepper pods. The emerging larvae develop and feed inside the pepper on the seed core or tissue of the pod wall. The larvae will then pupate with adults emerging inside the pepper, eventually chewing their way out.

We guessed Pepe didn’t have time to chew his way out before the pepper was picked and shipped to Montana. So what to do with our newfound friend? Give him a home and all the fresh pepper a weevil could hope for, of course.

We had Pepe for more than a year before he went to that big pepper in the sky.