Creepy Critters

April 5, 2010

We generally like to share our pastures with other living things but there are exceptions. An insidious foreign invader has recently landed in California, and it’s putting our state’s valuable vineyards at risk. The European grapevine moth has recently been discovered in the Napa Valley. First discovered in Oakville last September, the moths are a major threat to vineyards in the region and likely all over California.

Woodside, with its several commercial wineries, and the many private plots of grapes around people’s homes, needs to be aware of this threat. The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that the grapevine moth is considered to be a worse threat to agriculture than the light brown apple moth, another recently-introduced pest that we wrote about here back in 2008. The tiny beasts are known to be able to utterly destroy a vineyard’s bounty. One grower in Oakville lost his entire nine-acre harvest this year.

The threat has prompted the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to QUARANTINE 162 square miles of Napa, Solano, and Sonoma Counties! The CDFA is launching an aggressive plan to try to contain the insects, which are common in Europe but have recently spread to parts of Asia and South America. More than 3,000 sticky traps have been laid to try to capture the insects. Hopefully, the quarantine on grapes and other plants will stop the moths from spreading quickly. If these methods don’t work, agriculture officials are already talking about pesticides, a remedy that proved hugely controversial during the height of the light brown apple moth scare.

With three life cycles per year, the small (one-quarter-inch) but hungry bugs attack grapevines several times. Its eggs are laid on the vines, one generation consumes the flowers, and the next generation eats the grapes and introduces a grape-rotting fungus into the fruit, and the third generation hides for the winter, according to Monica Cooper, the director of UC Cooperative Extension and an adviser to Napa County. She told the Chronicle, “The trick now… is to learn as much as possible about the moth, how it got here, how far it has spread and what methods will be needed to prevent it from establishing a foothold in the rest of California.” spurred two articles in the Chronicle (the one above and this one)

We think that the agriculture officials in San Mateo County need to be hyper-alert for this pest, and Woodside’s commercial wine growers and hobbyists should be on the lookout. Woodside Vineyards, Thomas Fogarty Winery, and others all produce wine grapes in and around Woodside and could take a major economic hit if the moth spreads – just like the light brown apple moth spread to engulf the entire Bay Area.

Other plants under quarantine in the affected area as possible hosts are: Kiwi fruit, European barberry, Old man’s beard (Traveler’s joy), Spurge flax, Carnation, Persimmon, St. John’s wort (Aaron’s beard), False baby’s breath (white bedstraw), European privet, Olive, Stone fruits, such as apricot, cherry and plum, Pomegranate, Smooth sumac, Currant, gooseberry, Rosemary, Blackberry, dewberry, Bladder campion, Red clover, Sea squill, Grape, Jujube. Source: San Francisco Chronicle.

Homeowners need to do their part as well and get educated, to be on the watch for this new grape predator. The creatures are very small and green and brown. See an image here and if you find an insect you don’t recognize on your vines, you should definitely alert County agriculture officials . Let’s all do our part to keep our grapes safe and our wines top quality!

Meanwhile CDFA has just certified its final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Light Brown Apple Moth project. The program has shifted from eradication to suppression and control. The CDFA issued a clarification that aerial treatment with moth pheromones is not a management tool in the program. The only two treatment methods being considered currently are the placement of pheromone twist ties on trees and plants, and the release of sterile moths.

One Comment on “Creepy Critters

  1. Anonymous


    The Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) did not “Spread to engulf the entire Bay Area.”

    LBAM was likely in nearly the identical status in 2007 as it is right now. The number of traps has been dramatically increased since 2007 and the methods and locations of traps have been improved to find LBAM. Also, these types of tortricidae moths have populations that are cyclical without any precise patterns to isolate population changes from only one year to the next as a predictor of broader patterns.

    The measurement parameters of LBAM population and location have NOT been held constant in order to make a comparison from 2006, when it was noticed on two occasions by an Entomologist in his back yard, in 2007 when California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) first announced it, and 2009 when it was confirmed that LBAM had done NO CROP DAMAGE in California and again in 2010 when it was reconfirmed by all Agriculture Commissioners in every county of the state that NO CROP DAMAGE had occurred from LBAM (despite inaccurate media reports throughout these years unfortunately delivered to the media by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, CDFA).

    The Euro Grapevine Moth (EGM) may indeed be a significant problem/challenge for California Grape Growers. It would be nice to have CDFA’s science capability. The difficulty is that CDFA Top Management used LBAM as a cash cow to attempt to bring $100’s of Millions to their budget and then distribute it to their crony insider privileged buddies at large corporate chemical companies for pesticide contracts in populated areas that were totally unnecessary.

    It’s the old “Cry Wolf” syndrome. So now, when we truly need some action on EGM, there may be carry-over resistance from those who were violated by the “Cry of Wolf” on the LBAM program and by many others that have lost their trust in the CDFA.

    A.G. Kawamura, the secretary of the CDFA, should resign. He was the first promoter and spokesman for this fraudulent LBAM program. Even though Kawamura has essentially been removed from sight on the LBAM program, three more top managers at CDFA have all been discredited in their attempt to promote and perpetuate the refined misrepresentations and outright lies that were initiated back in 2007, prior to qualified scientists speaking out against this unnecessary and costly LBAM program.

    By the way, release of sterile moths is in the development stage and the likelihood that sufficient sterile LBAM can be released AND that they can compete effectively with wild moths in mating is less than one percent, i.e. “No chance” and certainly not within 20 years, if ever.

    Twist ties are only applicable for areas one-quarter square mile because of the labor intensity required. So there is no way to actually cover the 20,000 to 30,000 square miles. But CDFA will spray here and there and come up with other make-work efforts to pretend that they are doing something important simply to keep the money flowing.

    It would be nice if some of the media would investigate behind the Frankenstein science that CDFA delivers to the media in their fake press releases.

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