How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines

Grape

Vine Mealybug

Scientific name: Planococcus ficus

(Reviewed 6/06, updated 4/14)

In this Guideline:


DESCRIPTION OF THE PEST

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 and 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, it has occasionally been found on the root system, especially in areas with light soils. 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.

DAMAGE

Damage by the vine mealybug is similar to that of other grape-infesting mealybugs in that it produces honeydew that drops onto the bunches and other vine parts and serves as a substrate for black sooty mold. If ants are not present, a vine with a large population of this pest can have so much honeydew that it resembles candle wax. Also, the mealybug itself will be found infesting bunches making them unfit for consumption. Like the grape, obscure, and longtailed mealybugs, vine mealybug can transmit grape viruses.

MANAGEMENT

In California, the vine mealybug occurs in the Coachella and Central valleys, the Central and North coasts, and the Sierra foothills. The host range of the vine mealybug includes grape, fig, date palm, apple, avocado, citrus, and a few ornamentals. To date, vine mealybug has only been found feeding on grapevines in California. This pest is spreading to new areas of the state and IPM programs are under development.

Because several different species of mealybugs may infest grapevines, it is important to know which species of mealybug is present because management programs for the various mealybugs differ. If you find mealybugs in your vineyard, collect the largest mealybugs you can find and place them in a jar of alcohol or sealed plastic bag. Take the sample to either your UCCE Farm Advisor or county agricultural commissioner. The phone number and location of these offices can be found in the government pages of the phone book under "County Government." For more information on identification, visit the UCCE Kern County mealybug web page.

Biological Control

The parasites that attack Pseudococcus mealybugs do not attack the vine mealybug, therefore two potential candidates for natural control have been imported and released in Riverside, Kern and Fresno counties. The most successful of these has been Anagyrus pseudococci. This species has provided up to 20% parasitism in some vineyards in the Coachella Valley and up to 90% parasitism in the San Joaquin Valley. It is extremely important to promote parasites because they are active late in the growing season and can reduce vine mealybug populations before the pest begins to move to the lower part of the trunk in October. To a limited extent, they can parasitize vine mealybug when it is located under the bark where chemicals cannot penetrate. Ants must be controlled to keep them from interfering with these natural enemies (see the section on ANTS for information on their control).

In the coastal regions a lady beetle called the mealybug destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, attacks vine mealybug eggs and crawlers.

Cultural Control

The female mealybug is unable to fly so it must be carried by humans, equipment, birds, or be present on vines at the time of planting. Do not allow contaminated equipment, vines, grapes, or winery waste near uninfested vineyards. Movement of equipment that pushes brush or any over-the-row equipment can be a major source of infestations in new locations; steam-sanitize equipment before moving to uninfested portions of the vineyard. Do not spread infested cluster stems or pomace in the vineyard. To reduce contamination, cover all pomace piles with clear plastic for several weeks, and avoid creating piles that consist predominately of stems.

Organically Acceptable Methods

Biological and cultural controls are organically acceptable management tools. No research studies have yet been done in California on the efficacy of oils or calcium polysulfide in controlling vine mealybug, but they have not proven effective in controlling the grape mealybug.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

Follow the monitoring guidelines in DELAYED-DORMANT AND BUDBREAK MONITORING (wine and raisin grapes or table grapes) to monitor these and other pests in the early season and record results on a monitoring form (PDF). Starting at bloom, monitor for vine mealybug along with other pests as outlined in MONITORING INSECTS AND SPIDER MITES.

Pheromone traps for this pest are available and useful for determining if a vine mealybug infestation is near or in your vineyard. The lure that is placed inside each trap contains the sex pheromone that female vine mealybugs use to attract winged adult males. Tent-shaped red traps are recommended because the shape and color tend to reduce the number of non-target insects that are caught.

Place traps in and around the vineyard by April 1 in the southern San Joaquin Valley, to May in areas further north and June in the North and Central Coasts:

  • Choose two trap sites for each 20-40 planted acres.
  • Put one trap in the center of the block and the other on the edge near a staging area. These traps can attract vine mealybug males from as far away as 1/4 mile.
  • Attach traps to the trellis wires so that they are in the cluster area.
  • Label the trap with the block name and row number of its location and the dates it remains in the vineyard.
  • Check traps for the presence of male vine mealybug every 2 weeks through November.
  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for storing and replacing pheromone lures.
  • Record observations on a monitoring form (PDF).

It is essential to use a dissecting microscope to identify the male mealybug. (Male vine mealybugs are smaller than adult thrips and are very difficult to see even with a hand lens.) The sex pheromone is specific to the vine mealybug, but the traps may also contain other male mealybugs depending on the site. If there are questions as to the identification of the mealybug species, take samples to a farm advisor or county agricultural commissioner or refer to the Male Vine Mealybug Identification Sheet (PDF).

The number of males found in a trap depends upon its proximity to the infestation and to the time of year. In the North Coast, new infestations have been located near traps that caught very low numbers in June (5 to 10 males per trap per week) and high numbers in fall (more than 50 males per trap per week). In the San Joaquin Valley, an infested vineyard will have between 20 to 300 or more males per trap per week. In either region, low numbers of male vine mealybugs found in a trap may mean that the infestation is located in an adjacent block or in a more distant vineyard. If males are found, increase the number of traps in the vineyard, and locate the infestation by examining lower leaves for honeydew. After bloom, pull basal leaves to look for vine mealybug crawlers and honeydew in the canopy and look under the bark on the trunk and cordons. During bloom and veraison, treatment may be warranted for a high population of nymphs on leaves, but if possible it is better to wait until postharvest to treat in order to preserve natural enemies.

Check table grapes at harvest for vine mealybug damage to assess this year's management program and to plan for next year. When needed, make treatments for table grapes in November to reduce emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Vine mealybug produces more honeydew than other mealybugs, and this is particularly noticeable if there are no ants present. Thus, when searching for vine mealybugs during summer, look for honeydew exudates on the clusters, trunk, and cordons. These exudates will resemble melted candle wax, if the infestation is severe, and basal leaves will appear shiny and sticky. Sooty mold will grow on the honeydew, and permanent parts of the vine will appear black in fall and winter. Also look for fallen leaves beneath the canopy in July and August. To locate less severe infestations, it is necessary to look for all stages of the insect under the bark predominately at the graft union, on trunk pruning wounds, and below the base of the spur. Also, the presence of ants moving up and down the vine may indicate the presence of Pseudococcus mealybugs, vine mealybug, or European fruit lecanium scale.

If vine mealybug is found in the vineyard, treatment is recommended. There are two approaches to managing mealybugs: eradication and yearly management. Eradication using chemical applications is most likely to be successful in young vineyards or in vineyards where only a few isolated vines are infested. In mature vineyards with heavy, loose bark, strip the bark off the trunk and cordons before a chemical application to increase chances of success. Eradication is most probable in areas where there are no nearby vine mealybug-infested vineyards. If 2 years of effort do not eliminate vine mealybug from the vineyard, then switch to a yearly management program.

Management in newly infested vineyards (eradication)

Take precautions during harvest operations to prevent movement of insects to noninfested vines. Apply a foliar insecticide immediately after harvest if possible (before the nymphs begin to move to the lower parts of the trunk), to kill mealybugs on the leaves and wood so that the infestation is not spread to other parts of the vineyard when leaves drop or when the vines are pruned.

The following year, apply a delayed dormant treatment of chlorpyrifos or buprofezin and then, in areas with light soils, treat with imidacloprid at bloom. Make either a single application of imidacloprid or a split one, depending on soil type. During summer, treat with buprofezin. (In the North Coast, the first application of buprofezin is not recommended until late spring or early summer; imidacloprid is not as effective in controlling pests in heavy clay soils.) The University of California recommends following this program for a maximum of 2 years. If vine mealybug is still present in the vineyard after 2 years, switch to a yearly management program.

Yearly management program

Areas with light-textured soils

In vineyards known to be infested with vine mealybug, make a bloom time application of imidacloprid either as a single application or a split application through the drip-line. The following year, either treat with chlorpyrifos in the delayed dormant period, or with buprofezin in the delayed dormant period and again in the summer. Alternating insecticides each year helps to prevent the development of insect resistance.

Areas with heavy clay soils

In vineyards known to be infested with vine mealybug, make an application of buprofezin or methomyl as soon as crawlers are present on the leaves (in late spring to early summer); a second application can be made no sooner than 14 days later. (For table grapes, an application can be made earlier than late spring.) Apply a foliar insecticide immediately after harvest to kill mealybugs before the nymphs begin to move to the lower parts of the trunk in late October.

Common name Amount per acre** R.E.I.‡ P.H.I.‡
(example trade name)   (hours) (days)

  Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Not all registered pesticides are listed. Always read the label of the product being used.
 
DELAYED DORMANT
 
A. CHLORPYRIFOS*
  (Lorsban Advance) Label rates 24 35
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 1B
  . . . PLUS . . . (optional)
  NARROW RANGE OIL
  (Superior, Supreme) 1–2 gal 4 0
  MODE OF ACTION: Contact including smothering and barrier effects.
  COMMENTS: In spring, ants in southern California and the Central Valley move the female mealybugs from the roots to plant parts above ground. Spray to obtain thorough coverage of all aboveground plant parts, especially the trunk and cordons where mealybugs are located. Insecticide residues at the base of the vine will help control vine mealybugs in spring when they are being transported up the vine. Most effective when applied during warm weather (60°F or higher) because mealybugs are most active at this time. Apply during January for grapes harvested in June in the Coachella Valley. Do not apply in the North Coast; mealybugs are hidden under the bark at the graft union at this time of the year. Use allowed under a 24(c) registration (SLN CA-080009). Do not apply chlorpyrifos more than twice a year for the control of both vine mealybug and Pseudococcus mealybugs. Do not apply it between budbreak and harvest. Avoid drift and runoff into surface water. Chlorpyrifos has been found in surface waters at levels that violate federal and state water quality standards.
 
MATING DISRUPTION
 
A. MATING DISRUPTANT DISPENSERS
  (CheckMate VMB-XL)# 250 dispensers NA NA
  COMMENTS: Apply in the spring just before male emergence or when males are first detected in pheromone traps. Place dispensers on canes or trellis wire in the upper one-third of the canopy or higher. Most effective in large blocks or areawide, and when vine mealybug numbers are low. In sites with medium-to-high numbers, use an insecticide to reduce numbers.
 
EARLY SPRING
 
A. BUPROFEZIN
  (Applaud) 12 oz 12 30
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 16      
  COMMENTS: An insect growth regulator. Good coverage is essential. Buprofezin targets young nymphs on the vine that are exposed and still moving around before they settle down under the bark to feed. In regions outside of the North Coast, apply once in the delayed dormant period and once in early summer (May or June). In the North Coast, the first application is during late spring when crawlers are present or early summer. Do not tank mix. Do not apply more than twice per season and allow at least 14 days between applications. Use allowed under a FIFRA 2(ee) Recommendation.
 
BLOOM
 
A. SPIROTETRAMAT
  (Movento) 6–8 fl oz 24 7
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 23
  COMMENTS: A foliar insecticide that is absorbed by the leaves and moves systemically in the phloem and xylem. Use with a non-ionic surfactant. Sufficient leaf canopy must be present for uptake and translocation. It takes about 4 weeks after treatment to see the full effect. To protect honey bees, apply only during late evening, night, or early morning when bees are not present.
 
B. IMIDACLOPRID
  (Admire Pro - Soil) 7–14 fl oz 12 30
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: Efficacy of soil-applied neonicotinoids depends on soil texture. Imidacloprid binds readily to certain soil particles, has low water solubility, and long persistence (months). These characteristics allow it to be very effective in light soils, but ineffective in heavy soils. When the soil is rewetted and plant roots are actively absorbing water, the insecticide is also absorbed by roots. Best when applied in a drip irrigation system; otherwise, French plow the soil, apply as a ground spray, and immediately irrigate. Apply 7 to 14 fl oz/acre in one or two drip irrigation applications. On coarse soils or where the longest period of protection is required, make two applications. Make the first application from bloom through the pea-sized berry stage and the second 21 to 45 days later, keeping in mind the preharvest interval. The full rate of 14 oz/acre is recommended where vigorous vine growth is expected or in warmer growing areas such as the San Joaquin or Sacramento valleys or where mealybug numbers are high. Do not exceed 0.5 lb a.i. of imidacloprid/acre per year. Adequate soil moisture is important at the time of application; follow label instructions carefully.
 
C. CLOTHIANIDIN
  (Belay - Soil) 6–12 fl oz 12 30
  (Belay - Foliar) 6 fl oz 12 0
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: Efficacy of soil-applied neonicotinoids depends on soil texture. Clothianidin has low water solubility, medium capacity to bind onto soil particles, and moderate to long persistence (weeks to months). Studies indicate it is effective in light soils. Adequate soil moisture is important at the time of application; follow label instructions carefully.
 
D. THIAMETHOXAM
  (Platinum) 8–17 oz 12 60
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: Efficacy of soil-applied neonicotinoids depends on soil texture. Thiamethoxam has high water solubility, medium capacity to bind onto soil particles, and short to medium persistence (days to weeks). Studies indicate this is the most effective neonicotinoid for heavy soils. Adequate soil moisture is important at the time of application; follow label instructions carefully.
 
E. DINOTEFURAN
  (Venom - Soil) 6 oz 12 28
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: Efficacy of soil-applied neonicotinoids depends on soil texture. Dinotefuran has very high water solubility, low capacity to bind onto soil particles, and short to moderate persistence (days to weeks). Studies indicate it is moderately effective in heavy soils. Adequate soil moisture is important at the time of application; follow label instructions carefully.
 
SUMMER
(To obtain clean fruit and to avoid spreading the pest at harvest or by premature leaf drop)
 
A. IMIDACLOPRID
  (Admire Pro - Soil) 7–14 fl oz 12 30
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: If two applications are required because of coarse soils or where the longest period of protection is required, make the second application 21 to 45 days after the bloom application. Apply 7 to 14 fl oz/acre; the full rate of 14 oz/acre is recommended where vigorous vine growth is expected; in warmer growing areas such as the Coachella, San Joaquin, or Sacramento valleys; or where mealybug numbers are high. Do not exceed 0.5 lb a.i. of imidacloprid/acre per year. Adequate soil moisture is important at the time of application; follow label instructions carefully. Use allowed under a 24(c) registration.
 
B. BUPROFEZIN
  (Applaud) 12–24 oz 12 7 (12 oz rate) or
30 (24 oz rate)
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 16
  COMMENTS: An insect growth regulator. Buprofezin targets early stage nymphs on the vine that are exposed and still moving around before they settle under the bark to feed. Good coverage is essential. Do not tank mix. May be applied as two 12 oz applications at least 14 days apart or as a single 24 oz application. Most effective when applied during peak crawler emergence in the spring (typically late April–early May in the lower San Joaquin Valley and through June in the North Coast region). Buprofezin may harm the mealybug destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) when applied during the summer.
 
C. CLOTHIANIDIN
  (Belay - Soil) 6–12 fl oz 12 30
  (Belay - Foliar) 6 fl oz 12 0
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: Efficacy of soil-applied neonicotinoids depends on soil texture. Clothianidin has low water solubility, medium capacity to bind onto soil particles, and moderate to long persistence (weeks to months). Studies indicate it is effective in light soils. Adequate soil moisture is important at the time of application; follow label instructions carefully.
 
D. THIAMETHOXAM
  (Platinum) 8–17 oz 12 60
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: Efficacy of soil-applied neonicotinoids depends on soil texture. Thiamethoxam has high water solubility, medium capacity to bind onto soil particles, and short to medium persistence (days to weeks). Studies indicate this is the most effective neonicotinoid for heavy soils. Adequate soil moisture is important at the time of application; follow label instructions carefully.
 
E. DINOTEFURAN
  (Venom - Soil) 6 oz 12 28
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: Efficacy of soil-applied neonicotinoids depends on soil texture. Dinotefuran has very high water solubility, low capacity to bind onto soil particles, and short to moderate persistence (days to weeks). Studies indicate it is moderately effective in heavy soils. Adequate soil moisture is important at the time of application; follow label instructions carefully.
 
F. ACETAMIPRID
  (Assail 30SG) 2.5 oz 12 3
  (Assail 70WP) 1.1 oz 12 3
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 4A
  COMMENTS: To protect honey bees, apply only during late evening, night, or early morning when bees are not present.
 
POSTHARVEST
 
A. SPIROTETRAMAT
  (Movento) 6–8 fl oz 24 7
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 23
  COMMENTS: A foliar insecticide that is absorbed by the leaves and moves systemically in the phloem and xylem. Use with a non-ionic surfactant. Sufficient leaf canopy must be present for uptake and translocation. It takes about 4 weeks after treatment to see the full effect. To protect honey bees, apply only during late evening, night, or early morning when bees are not present.
 
B. CHLORPYRIFOS*
  (Lorsban Advance) Label rates 24 NA
  MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 1B
  COMMENTS: Apply in a minimum of 150 gal water/acre. Treat infested vineyards immediately after harvest to minimize the movement of live mealybugs. Use allowed under a Special Local Needs registration (SLN CA-080009). Growers may apply this material under SLN CA-080009 or under SLN CA-080011 but not both. Avoid drift and runoff into surface waters.
 
** Apply with enough water to provide complete coverage.
Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (P.H.I.) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the R.E.I. exceeds the P.H.I. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
* Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode-of-action group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee). For additional information, see their Web site at http://www.irac-online.org/.
NA Not applicable.

IMPORTANT LINKS

[Precautions]

PUBLICATION

[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Grape
UC ANR Publication 3448

Insects and Mites

W. J. Bentley, UC IPM Program, Kearney Agricultural Research Center, Parlier
L. G. Varela, UC IPM Program, Sonoma County
F. G. Zalom, Entomology, UC Davis
R. J. Smith, UC Cooperative Extension, Sonoma County
A. H. Purcell, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley
P. A. Phillips, UC IPM Program, Ventura County
D. R. Haviland, UC IPM Program, Kern County
K. M. Daane, Kearney Agricultural Research Center, Parlier
M. C. Battany, UC Cooperative Extension, San Luis Obispo County
Acknowledgment for contributions to Insects and Mites:
J. Granett, Entomology, UC Davis

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