El Nino Could Bring Vine Mealybug Relief

Taylor Hillman Specialty Crops, Tree, nut & vine crops, Weather, Wine

Vine Mealybug
The wet El Nino weather might help slow the rising problem grape growers are seeing with the vine mealybug.

Vine Mealybug Relief

The number of generations the vine mealybug can have in a season is making the pest a serious issue for grape producers. The pest can have six to seven generations with different stages of mealybug all in the same location. Cooperative Extension Specialist Kent Daane says the Central Valley may have even seen an eighth generation this last year due to the dry and warm winters of the previous few years. He says that a more wet and cold winter, like this El Nino weather pattern is flirting with, could knock back this rising concern for growers.

More about vine mealybugs

From the UC IPM website: Vine mealybugs are small (adult females are about 1/8 inch in length), soft, oval, flat, distinctly segmented, and covered with a white, mealy wax that extends into spines (filaments along the body margin and the posterior end). The vine mealybug has a pinkish body that is visible through the powdery wax, and it is slightly smaller than the Pseudococcus mealybugs. The waxy filaments that protrude from the body of the vine mealybug are shorter than those on the Pseudococcus mealybugs, and the vine mealybug does not possess long tail filaments. The adult male is smaller than the female, has wings, and flies short distances to mate. There are three to seven generations a year.

All or most life stages of the vine mealybug can be present year-round on a vine depending on the grape-growing region. In the North Coast during winter months, the only life stages found are nymphs located under the bark predominately at the graft union, on trunk pruning wounds, and below the base of spurs. In other regions during the winter months, vine mealybug eggs, crawlers, nymphs, and adults are under the bark, within developing buds, and on roots.

As temperatures warm in spring, vine mealybug populations increase and become more visible as they move from the roots or trunk to the cordons and canopy. By late spring and summer, vine mealybugs are found on all parts of the vine: hidden under bark and exposed on trunks, cordons, first- and second-year canes, leaves, clusters, and roots. Ants may transport vine mealybug from the roots to above ground plant parts where they continue to tend vine mealybugs throughout the remainder of the growing season.

In the North Coast, vine mealybug has not been found on vine roots; however, in other regions with sandy soils it spends the winter almost exclusively on the root system. Other mealybugs found infesting grapes are only found on the aboveground portions of the vine. In addition, the vine mealybug is much more likely to be found on leaves during the growing season than the other mealybugs. During summer when vine mealybugs are in the canopy, they can be located well above the fruit zone and will lay eggs on the leaves, while Pseudococcus mealybugs do not. Vine mealybug does not diapause during the winter, and it appears to be more sensitive to cold temperatures than grape mealybug. Read more from the UC IPM website.