Sustainable and Organic Control of Vine Mealybug in Vineyards: Two Growers, Two Approaches

      Photo courtesy of Mark D. Welch.

The Vine Mealybug (Planococcus ficus) is found in winegrowing regions around California. This pest can multiply rapidly over the course of the growing season causing catastrophic damage to fruit. As the Vine Mealybug (VMB) is found on different parts of the vine at different times of year, a variety of pest control practices need to be employed. Willy Cunha (Sunview Shandon) and Bart Haycraft (Jackson Family Wines - Los Alamos) share their strategies for controlling this pest.

Key Challenges:

Willie Cunha - Maintain Organic Certification
Bart Haycraft - Size and topography (block sizes and layout on 480 acres of vines)



When VMB appeared in the vineyard in 2015:

Mapped known infestations
Identified areas of likely infestation with pheromone traps
Peeled bark, painted trunks with stickum
Removed and burned badly infested vines
Treated infested vines with combination of orange oil, cinnamon oil, and clove oil
Sprayed trunks with hand wands

Current Strategy:

Train employees to recognize VMB
Use mating disruption cards
Trap extensively
Look for beneficials when scouting
At Sunview Shandon they find adult Mealybug destroyers (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri), Anagyrus pseudococci, and Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla rufilabris) eggs



Previous Practices:

3 years ago noticed VMB control program seemed to be failing
Treated blocks with contact insecticides after they were  harvested
Timing was difficult
Quit monitoring after harvest and resumed in January
VMB continued to reproduce in warm winters
Systemic imidicloprid applications ranch-wide in late spring
Tried bark stripping on 40 year-old vines
Desire to reduce or eliminate need for broad spectrum insecticides
Used pneumatic air hammer to blow bark off trunks
Time consuming
Discontinued because air hammer was blowing the bark around so might actually be contributing to spread and it was expensive

New program:

Goal is to eliminate one contact insecticide application and one systemic imidicloprid application per season
25 pheromone traps on 480 acres (19 acres per trap)
VMB trap catches late season some years
Post-harvest spike in trap catches triggers an insecticide and/or sprayable pheromone application
Mating Disruption
Place mating disruption cards April for 100-120 days efficacy
Has tried double hanging cards in January and mid-June
Apply sprayable pheromone after harvest
Program could be sprayable pheromone applied in early May, then again post-harvest in tank mix with contact insecticide like spirotetramat.
Ant Control
No active ant control program
Never found an effective strategy
Has found that control of VMB reduces ants - stop the VMB, ants go away