At 8:00pm last Thursday night, my wife and I wandered through Purisima Mountain Vineyard, delivering over 210,000 ladybugs to our grapevines. It was a very cool experience, hand delivering these “lucky” bugs to specific vines; it took us about two hours to deliver them all to our vines.
While I do hope they impart luck into this vintage, I reintroduced a larger population of ladybugs in order to spot treat the increasing leafhopper population in select parts of the vineyard, proactively preventing the damage they would cause to my vines. Leafhoppers are an okay insect to have on the farm but only in moderation, just like anything; they feed off sap in the grape leaves, damaging the leaves in the process. So if we have too many of these insects, our leaves will become too damaged. At a certain life stage leafhoppers are unable to fly and will stay on the back of leaves focusing on the delicious food right in front of them. I’ve kept a close eye on them over the past few weeks waiting for the hatch of the next generation, and I felt like last Thursday was the opportune moment to release the ladybugs.
Ladybugs are selective predator bugs and usually only like to eat aphids. However, when the leafhoppers are newly born nymphs, they become a welcome treat for the ladybugs. I could have used an organic spray to manage the increasing leafhopper population, but why not use ladybugs? Just because a spray is organic, doesn’t mean it’s always safe to use, or is the best solution. At the end of the day, the spray is still poison, but in a natural form (I could’ve used a spray derived from chrysanthemums).
Reintroducing ladybugs is a form of integrated pest management – essentially managing pest damage in the most common-sense way possible. Ladybugs are beneficial to our environment and they help decrease another pest issue, so it’s a win-win decision for me. I try to be proactive with my farming methods, thinking of solutions to problems that may not yet even exist. Integrating good bugs into our ecosystem to prevent damage down the road is a prime example of how we farm proactively.