Coachella Valley growers are on the alert for a grape-eating moth spotted in California’s Napa Valley and, more recently, in Fresno County, but they’re hopeful that state, county and federal officials will be able to keep the pest in check.

California’s Department of Food and Agriculture early this year established a 162-square-mile quarantine that includes parts of Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties in an attempt to prevent the spread of the European grapevine moth.

“Grapes are our state’s top crop,” CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura said in a news release. “This quarantine will help us ensure that the infestation doesn’t have an opportunity to spread.”

On May 3, however, three moths were detected for the first time among 5,000 traps set up in Fresno County, and Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape and Tree Fruit League, said May 5 that state officials might set up a quarantine area in that Central Valley county.

“We think we’re very much on top of this in an early stage,” Bedwell said of the latest finds. He was hopeful that the finds were “only an aberration.”

Actually, it’s the larvae, not the adult moths, that are responsible for the damage to grapes, the CDFA reported. The damage can range from reduced yields to rotted grapes.

CDFA, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and county agricultural commissioners, launched a statewide trapping effort to determine whether the moth has infested any other areas of the state.

As of early May, no sightings were reported in the Coachella Valley.

“Our focus is going to be to make sure the state and federal authorities do all they can to see that the pest does not spread into the interior of the state,” Bedwell said.

Riverside County officials have set up traps throughout the Coachella Valley, said Drake Larson, partner in Drake Larson Sales, Thermal, Calif.

“They’re aggressively looking for it,” he said.

“The traps are everywhere,” added Blaine Carian, vice president and general manager at Desert Fresh Inc., Coachella, Calif.

The moth is a “potential problem” in the Coachella Valley, said Mike Rocker, partner/field manager for Gold Coast Growers LLC in Thermal.

“It’s another one of those things we have to deal with,” he said.

But the Coachella Valley has an environment that typically discourages pests and diseases, Rocker added.

“Usually, we’re a fairly safe harbor as far as pests go in the desert with the hot and dry conditions,” he said.

Bedwell said he hopes officials will take steps to be sure moths are not introduced into new areas if loads of wine grapes are moved out of the quarantine area.

“We’re confident that the state and federal authorities, in conjunction with the growers in Napa, Sonoma and Solono counties, will do all they can to eradicate this pest as soon as possible,” he said.

It’s also important that trading partners understand that the location where the pest currently is found is not near a table grape producing region, he said.

California growers on grapevine moth alert

Calif. Dept. of Food and Ag.

European grape moth