The industry’s search for sustainable vine mealybug control may be aided by mating disruption. Though not considered a stand-alone approach in most situations, researchers say it could help reduce insecticide applications and boost the effectiveness of parasatoids.

“Mating disruption is a critical component to make overall biological control work,” says Kent Daane, UC entomologist at Kearney Ag Center, Parlier, Calif. “Parasitoids on their own don’t get the mealybug under the bark, and insecticides are also limited at that point.”

In 2004, researchers started looking at using pheromones in the form of a sprayable microencapsulated on small, replicated plots. However, due to concerns about registering the product and its longevity in the field, they switched to plastic dispensers.

“We think this can work,” Daane says. “We just have to get the price of the mating disruption to a reasonable level. Right now, it runs about $130 per acre.”

A program that relies heavily on mating disruption is only effective at low starting populations, he says. “If you have a lot of mealybugs out there, you first have to use an insecticide to get the population down.”

Research is continuing this year in commercial vineyards.