Thursday, June 14, 2007

Vine mealy bug: a serious threat

So undoubtedly you local types caught the Press Democrat's story about the Vine Mealy Bug threat to the wine industry. [link here for those that didn't]

Nasty little creatures!
Not sure what God's intended purpose was in creating them...but then again maybe it was the Devil's work?

Anyway, the part of the article describing the spread of these creatures seemed to be a little understated. Yes they state that it's easy to transfer the little buggers around by wind on leaves, but it's really much worse than that sounds: they can be spread by every vector imaginable!
Using the same tractor on multiple blocks or vineyards can spread them due to their stickiness...
The same is true of your vineyard workers...
all their equipment and clothing...
even perhaps their cars which were parked nearby...
the picking bins used to ferry the fruit to winery...
and every piece of winery equipment which has come into contact with that fruit as well...

But that's not all. The pomace after you've pressed is still contaminated as well!

I've seen recommendations to have the pomace after pressing be either returned to the infected vineyard or essentially "kilned" during composting by a certified processor. All equipment was to be disinfected with high pressure washers and soap (food grade) to make sure the bugs are left behind in the vineyard.

And the insecticide regimen once an infestation is identified is no joke.
Bully for those at Spring Mountain for going the extra mile to help develop a less environmentally intrusive method for's what's needed to keep any organic grower looking to continue their certifications...
One of the big problems is getting control of the ants which help protect the mealy bugs from predators, so they can use the honeydew produces for food.

(It's story time, Kids! Do you remember some time ago, a North Bay County tried to use a compulsory reporting, quarantine and eradication program. What was fascinating about this was the fact that reports of the bugs dropped nearly to zero due to the stigma and work associated with an outbreak. No, the bugs weren't defeated...people went underground about the problem, and it went untreated. Sensing this, the "Man" dropped that and made it voluntary to bring people back out of hiding. And you know what?... it seems to be working, and there may be a happy ending to it all...
Moral: help people without punishing them for something which isn't their fault...)

Regarding Spring Mountain, the only thing it seems they didn't mention in the article was the use of Assistance Dogs to sniff out the (oft) unseen early infestations of vine mealy bugs before they get fully established. Google that topic for some cutting edge news.
Hopefully they're using that tool as well to help curb any spread...

A few links to get more information:
UCD Vine Mealy Bug IPM page
Vine Mealybug and Soft Systemics
Managing Vine Mealybug, Keys to Recognition
Dogs With a Nose For Mealybugs (Wall Street Journal : subscription needed)

And finally, since they mention Falcon Crest, an easy trivia question: What was the fictional family's name of Falcon Crest?

Was it too easy?
Then try naming the real-life wine family which was the inspiration for the series...
Good luck!

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