It isn’t every day or everywhere that children get to take part in vineyard pest control.

On Tuesday, July 24th, 2018, Jay Leone and the other members of the Lodi Winegrape Commission’s Mealybug Biocontrol Research Focus Group and Grapevine Virus Research Focus Group were lucky enough to make a family event out of vineyard pest control in the LODI AVA.  We enticed the youngsters initially with promises of popsicles (and enticed the grown-ups with a cooler of beer), but watching a drone deploy mealybug destroyer beetles was quickly enough entertainment for everyone!

Associates Insectary graciously donated thousands of Cryptolaemus beetles to Lodi winegrowers so that we can observe their survival rates in our vineyards (so nice, right?! thank you, Brett and Joe!).  We’d usually release these beneficial beetles, which feed on the virus-infecting vine mealybugs, by hand or using ATVs.  Although riding an ATV around in a vineyard under the gorgeous Lodi sunset is my idea of a perfect evening, it takes two people about 3 hours to cover 30 acres.  So when Tyler Blagg showed us a beneficial insect-releasing drone company called “parabug” that he saw on instagram, we immediately contacted them via their online form.  To our surprise, parabug’s President, Chandler Bennett, offered to come from Salinas with his trusty friend Kevin Hill to help us deploy our 30,000 beetles with their drone.

Here’s what unforgettable fun-filled family friendly pest control looks like:


Chandler and Kevin had lots of helpers when it came time to fill the tubes with beetles and sawdust!


Becca Starr with her beetles.


All ages were represented and the beautiful wives got to enjoy some time in the vineyard before Bunko night!


The Blagg boys representing!


The take-off was the most exciting part!


The kids really bonded with the beetles!  Notice the girls in the background picking up the beetles who escaped at take-off.


Everyone wanted to get in on the action!


This is the kind of awesome picture you find on your camera when you let a kid be the photographer!

Thanks to all who joined us for this memorable evening!   – Stephanie Bolton, Lodi Winegrape Commission

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