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May/June 2008
article title image SPRING MOUNTAIN VINEYARD UC Berkeley introduces beneficial insects to control vine mealybugs
Anagyrus pseudococci, parasitoids of VMB, are distributed (one to five per vine) at Spring Mountain Vineyard. Sterling Insectary will produce more of the parasites in 2008 for other research vineyard plots.
INSET: Close-up of new strains of anagyrus pseudococci imported from Italy by UC Berkeley.
He approached Napa County Ag Commissioner Dave Whitmer and asked for permission to try an alternative that had not yet been approved — using insects to manage vine mealybug. Whitmer replied that he would give temporary approval if Rosenbrand could recruit UC Berkeley scientists Kent Daane (UC Berkeley Cooperative Extension specialist) and Dr. Monica Cooper (staff research associate, with a Doctor of Plant Medicine degree from the University of Florida) to work with him.
Insect control tested at many sites
Since 2006, Spring Mountain Vineyard has been one of many sites throughout the state where the UC Berkeley team have been researching the use of insects as sustainable tools to manage VMB populations. These tools include the release of beneficial insects (biological control), mating disruption using pheromone dispensers (manufactured by Suterra Inc, Bend, OR), and the judicious application of more target-specific insecticides (such as insect growth regulators, neo-nicotenoids, and "lipid biosynthesis" inhibitors.

The program at Spring Mountain aims to eliminate this type of damage to a grape cluster by vine mealybugs.
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Jack Heeger
hen Ron Rosenbrand joined Spring Mountain Vineyard (St. Helena, CA) in 2003 as vineyard manager, he found a two-acre block of about 400 vines that had become infested with vine mealybugs. Two years later the infestation had spread to 10 acres, and 10% of the crop was not harvested.
It wasn't just smatterings of honeydew he saw on clusters — it was large clumps.
When the original infestation was discovered, there was little knowledge and field experience in coastal regions with managing control of or eradication of vine
mealybug (VMB). Instead, the intent of a county-wide compliance agreement from the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner's office was to keep VMB populations from spreading by trying to eradicate VMB with insecticide sprays.
Rosenbrand embarked on a spraying programto try to control VMB. The insecticides suppressed VMB damage, but after three years of spraying insecticides, eradication had not been achieved and the infestation still continued to spread.
"We wanted to do something more environmentally friendly," Rosenbrand says. "Our neighbors were upset," and so was he, "especially when there was a trend toward organic and environmentally correct farming."