We are convinced that in order to improve vineyard production, we must have a balanced and diverse environment, that is, we must promote an agrosystem that is as complete as possible.
In nature there are insects called natural enemies or auxiliary fauna, we like to call them beneficial insects. They perform a biological control, or what is the same, they feed on insects that can become pests in our vineyards and kill part of the harvest or in the worst case, all the grapes.
To avoid using insecticides that kill “every living thing” we have to attract these insect accomplices as much as possible, creating attractive spaces for them, which is technically called ecological infrastructure. In this post we tell you which are the beneficial insects in the vineyard, what they feed on and which are the plants that give them shelter and that we have in Lagar de la Salud.
Beneficial insects in the vineyard
Green lacewings are slender and delicate insects, characterized by broad wings that resemble intricate lace. The body of the adult insect is bright green and the wings are translucent with bright flashes. We are very interested in favoring their presence in the vineyard, since they have a wide feeding spectrum. Larvae feed on eggs and juvenile forms of mites and insects; adults eat both insects and sugary substances such as pollen, nectar and substances excreted by other insects. The eggs of lacewings are found on plants, usually where aphids are present in large numbers, e.g. on almond trees. Individually, each egg is hung on a thin stalk about 1 cm long, usually on the underside of a leaf.
Ladybugs are predatory insects present in our vineyards, both in the larval and adult stages. Many feed on aphids and others on mites. The best known is Coccinella septempunctata, which has red wings with three black dots each and one more dot at the junction of the two wings, for a total of seven dots. It is a very representative species of biological control.
Beetles are also predators and many feed on insects that can be pests in the vineyard. Stethorus punctillum is a very small beetle that eats yellow spider mites (Tetranychus urticae), a very common vineyard pest. This one is not as pretty as the ladybug, but it is very effective.
A large group of insects called Hymenoptera, including wasps, bees and ants are parasitoids. The adults lay their eggs inside the larvae of other insects and the hatching larvae devour them from within. These wasps attack insect larvae that can be vineyard pests such as the grapevine moth, green midge or mealybug.
Some important ones are:
- Elachertus affinis, Campoplex capitator are parasitoid species of the grapevine moth
- Anagyrus pseudococci an important mealybug parasitoid
- Anagrus atomus Himenóptero parasitoide for green mosquitoes
Surely some of you have heard of insect hotels. Well, this is what we are doing, but with plants. We have planted and are planting “refuge plants” near the vineyard plots to provide shelter and food for these valuable insects.
In addition to its delicious perfume, it attracts many insects such as bees, butterflies and ladybugs.
Its flowering is almost perennial and attracts pollinating insects and acts as a refuge for insects in cold seasons. It is a good attractor of predators that attack mites that can become a pest in the vineyard, such as the yellow spider mite.
Its flowers are a source of food for all kinds of insects and it is a strategic tree since it flowers in autumn-winter and provides food at a time when it is scarce.
Several studies have shown the abundant presence of predators in the fields where there are mastic trees in the vicinity. It is one of the species that we will plant this year on the edges of a plot.
We also have almond trees (a magnificent refuge for Chrysopa), peach trees, laurel, lemon trees, orange trees, pomegranate trees, oaks, apple trees, pear trees and even a dragon tree.
It is not only the quantity of plants that we have, but that they are well stratified at the vegetative level, both in space (herbaceous, subshrub, shrub and tree strata) and in time (annual and seasonal). The greater the diversity in the ecosystem, the greater the capacity of our lands to sustainably host communities of beneficial animals, not only insects but also vertebrates such as birds, mammals and reptiles.