Monitoring for mealy bug this time of year is essential. These little devils cause Leaf roll virus, destroying vineyards across the world. Keeping their numbers to a minimum is of utmost importance.
So, how do you fight them? You could use harsh chemicals, but these are non selective and sadly also kills their natural enemies.
So, in short, this is their little world:
The mealy bugs feed on the sap of the vineyard. They produce a product we call Honey Dew. This is sweet and ants love it. So the ants and the mealy bugs formed an allegiance. The mealy bugs produce Honey Dew that the ants want, and in turn the ants will protect the mealy bugs from natural enemies.
Who kills the mealy bugs? There are quite a few, but in this case it is the humble Ladybird. So the Ladybird attacks the mealy bug, but is met with a counter attack from the ants. The Ladybirds are always outnumbered.
So how can we intervene without causing a massive disruption? We control the ants to give the Ladybirds the upper hand. 🙂
This is quite a fascinating micro world. I sat under a vine for almost half an hour, just observing these little soldiers on the move. They were attacking the mealy bugs under the vine bark, running after them. With no ants to protect the mealy bugs it was total slaughter.
This all sounds cruel, but in fact this is necessary to help us to produce top wines with as little impact on the environment as possible.
I salute you o little ones.