An Exquisite Extermination – European Grapevine Moth [Opinion]

When we publish stories about invasive pests in this magazine or post them to our website,, they generate a lot of interest. No surprise there, you want to know what’s lurking out there, and what you can do to prepare.


Lately, two in particular have been stealing the limelight: spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). We have a story about one or the other in nearly every issue — this month it’s BMSB’s turn.

With good reason, our industry takes these pests very seriously, pouring millions of dollars into campaigns to defeat them. Some, like the aforementioned SWD and BMSB, are formidable pests, and will be extraordinarily difficult to defeat. But not impossible.

I got to thinking about that the other day while skimming some back issues from about a half-dozen years ago. I came across a story about another pest garnering headlines at the time, the European grapevine moth (EGVM), Lobesia botrana.

A lot of you might not remember this pest, because though at the time it was thought EGVM could spread to other states, to my knowledge it never made it out of California. But trust me, it was a big deal here in the Golden State, where 90% of the nation’s winegrapes and virtually all of the table grapes and raisins are produced.

The EGVM was first detected in Napa County in 2009, and as you might expect when such a pest is found in the best-known viticultural area in the U.S., the alarms shrieked.

Despite the best efforts of agricultural officials from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS), in cooperation with the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner, the pest couldn’t initially be contained. It soon spread throughout not only the North Coast, but down through the state.

Looking back, it seems like it was an almost daily occurrence, firing up the computer and getting an email with more bad news. Subsequent detections and quarantines were reported in the counties of Fresno, Merced, Nevada, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Joaquin in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

The infestation peaked in 2010 when more than 100,000 EGVM were detected. But guess what?

Government action worked. For all the carping you and I do about bloated government bureaucracies and their incredible inefficiencies, they brought the hammer down.

Following an intense period of coordinated trapping, treatments, and other detection and response activities, the detection numbers dropped dramatically to a measly 144 in 2011.

As a result of the collaborative efforts between USDA, CDFA, county agricultural commissioners, and University of California Cooperative Extension, not to mention growers, the quarantine area in California shrank quickly from a high of 2,334 square miles in 2013 to 446 square miles in 2014.

No EGVM have been detected since June 25, 2014.

Then, a couple months ago — the wheels of bureaucracy do turn slowly, but hey, they got the job done — agricultural officials from CDFA, USDA, in cooperation with county agricultural commissioners, officially declared the EGVM eradicated from California and have lifted quarantine restrictions.

Said APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea: “The collaborative strategies used by the EGVM eradication project will be a model for addressing future pest incursions.”

Look out BMSB and SWD, you’re next.