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The story of the confused Vine Moths

Monday, May 10, 2010

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Close up of a vine with fingernail-sized leaves. A red wire is attached to it, which contains the pheromones.
Pheromone dispenser strips on a grapevine.

Walking through a vinyard in this time of the year it’s pretty easy to spot red ribbons wound around grapevine shoots every few meters or so. What they are useful for is explained by the occurance of one of the more dangerous pests in winegrowing, the Vine Moth.

The Vine Moth (link to Wikipedia) or rather the Vine Moths because there are actually two species are the most dangerous insects for winegrowing in the warm and dry climate of our area. Their generations infest grape blossoms or grapes respectively. This alone would not yet be too bad but the affected grapes start to rot immediately and we cannot allow that to happen. So what to do?

We have to fight the Vine Moth, that’s out of question. Here in Gols and all around Lake Neusiedl both species find just excellent conditions and our vinyards seem to be tasty for them as well. Of course we could just simply spray them to death but as an organic farm it’s superfluous for us to say that we don’t think that this is a good idea at all. Just for the sake of completeness, killing every insect and animal that moves in the vinyard ist not only bad behaviour for a decent human but horrendously stupid as well. There has to be something better and there is - come the red ribbons!

Just like many lepidoptera species the Vine Moths have an important weak spot that we canuse with quiet conscience as orcanic winegrowers as well. The moths are very small and unremarkable, actually they look very similar to clothes or flour moths. To enable the male and female moths to find each other in the vast environment, the female moths distribute a very specific scent that only attracts males of the same species. We call the chemicals they use pheromones. But what if we take the love-blind males and just “divert” them a bit? This idea is already well established. All over the vinyards and the area around them we distribute these red ribbons that are totally covered with pheromones. The area is flooded with them and the male Vine Moths are unable to find their mates. This method is thus called “mating disruption” - obvious, isn’t it?

The nice thing about this ist that it does not affect any other insects or animals. And some Vine Moths can still find a mate and lay eggs which prevents the species from becoming endagered. We can also live with small amounts of affected grapes and everyone is happy. How nice would it be if all things were so easy.

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