Grape root borer, Vitacea polistiformis (Harris), is an economically important and potentially destructive pest of grape vines in portions of the eastern United States. Its oligophagous larvae feed on the roots of cultivated and wild Vitis species. In commercial vineyards, adult females oviposit on aboveground parts of vines and other vegetation in vine rows. The loosely attached eggs are thought to drop to the ground and, upon eclosion, neonates quickly burrow into the soil to search for grape roots. Although vineyard infestation by grape root borer is ultimately dependent upon larval success at finding and establishing on vine roots, little is known about larval movement capabilities in the soil. In this study, soil column bioassays were used to evaluate neonate movement in the horizontal and vertical dimensions, the influence of grape root stimuli on the rate and frequency of food-finding, and the distance over which the neonates responded to these stimuli. Grape root borer neonates moved both horizontally and vertically in the soil. In vertical columns, larvae located pieces of grape root over distances up to 120 cm, although the presence of food at the bottom of columns did not affect the frequency or rate of movement to the bottom. Larvae appeared to respond to fresh grape root pieces over a distance of 5 cm in soil. Results are discussed in relation to the utility of these soil column assays for potential future studies of grape root borer food-finding and management in vineyards.
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