Stop the spread of vineyard mealybugs

Maureen Flanagan Battistella IVN Contributing Writer

Do you have a production vineyard or backyard vines? If so, you need to watch out for vine mealybugs (Planococcus ficus) This species was found in Oregon for the first time in the summer of 2021 and most recently in Jackson County vineyards. This new grapevine pest spreads easily and rapidly, allows a mold to grow that hinders photosynthesis, leaves fruit unsuitable for human consumption and is a vector for grapevine leaf roll viruses.
Mealybugs are not new to Southern Oregon and in 2014 Gill’s mealybug (Ferrisia gilli) was found in vineyards near Jacksonville and has since spread from the original site. Due to their rapid spread and potential for damage, Oregon Department of Agriculture recently issued a quarantine pest alert for vine mealybug and a pest alert for Gill’s mealybug.
“Since the Vine mealybug was first found in Southern California in the 1990s, it has been recognized as their most serious vineyard pest,” noted Rick Hilton, entomologist with the OSU Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. “About ten years ago it was found in Napa vineyards and since then, we’ve just been waiting for it to arrive in Southern Oregon. Now the vine mealybug is here.”
Vine and Gill’s mealybugs are similar in appearance: Typically white/gray in color, 2-4mm in length and a segmented, oblong body with filaments or rods along its edges. The vine mealybug also looks similar to the more commonly found and not reportable grape mealybug with its characteristic pair of long wax tails. Mealybugs, in a cluster of fine webbing or glass-like filaments, can often be found at the base of shoots and are discovered at thinning but can be found in other parts of the plant and throughout the year. The vine mealybug is also hosted by plant families that include apple, beet, potato, walnut and willow.
Equipment and clothing contaminated with the pest are the primary means of mealybug spread, though the pest can be transmitted passively by wind. Because mealybug infestation can also be transmitted with the movement of live plants and plant cuttings, grafting stock should be acquired only through certified nurseries.
Because of the severity of damage and the risk presented by this insect, the Oregon Department of Agriculture has instituted a mealybug monitoring program in order to understand how and where mealybugs are migrating. The monitoring program, which involves a pheromone insect trap that attracts the male mealybug, is free to growers.

If you suspect a vine mealybug infestation notify ODA immediately with an email and photo to plant-entomologists@oda.oregon.gov and report the occurrence at https://oda.fyi/mealybug. If you want ODA to monitor your vineyard for mealybugs contact the ODA entomologist at the same email.
For more information on pest control and management for commercial and home growers, visit https://www.oregon.gov/oda/programs/IPPM/Pages/Default.aspx and browse the insects section or consult the 2022 Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook, available online at https://pnwhandbooks.org/insect.
For assistance with insect pest prevention and management in Jackson County visit the OSU Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center website at https://agsci.oregonstate.edu/sorec or phone SOREC at 541-776-7371.
Reach freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com