Obscure mealybug is a pest of grapes in the cool climate regions of coastal California, is found on some vineyard weeds, and is tended by the Argentine ant. A study was conducted at a vineyard in Arroyo Grande, CA, to evaluate the impact of weeds on ant activity on grapevines, and the role that ants and weeds have on obscure mealybug infestation in grape clusters. The incidence of the fungus Botrytis cinerea was recorded as well. Treatments were weed exclusion versus the presence of weeds, and ant exclusion versus the presence of ants. Ant activity was evaluated weekly using sugar-based monitoring stations, and mealybug infestation and Botrytis incidence of clusters were evaluated at harvest. Ant exclusion reduced the overall number of ant visits by 82%, and ants increased mealybug infestation of clusters by 53%. Ant activity was 33% higher in the weeds treatment, but there was no impact of weeds on mealybug infestation. We suggest that the higher ant activity recorded in the weeds treatment may have been an artifact of the sugar-based sampling method. Botrytis incidence was three times higher with ants, but did not differ between weeds and weed exclusion treatments. The study supports other research showing a relationship between mealybug infestation and the presence of ants, as well as the lack of impact of floor vegetation on mealybug infestation of grape clusters. It is the first report of a relationship between ants and Botrytis, although it is more likely that the higher Botrytis incidence found here is a result of increased mealybug density than a direct effect by ants.
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Vol. 107 • No. 3