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Killer Caterpillars

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Posted: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 10:50 am

What's got my goat are lousy light green caterpillars.

I noticed a bunch of unripe cherry tomatoes on the ground that had seemingly dropped for no good reason. Upon closer inspection, I could see the nearly-perfect holes at the stem that caused their fall.

Then I caught a nasty fellow with his head buried deep within my future salad component, so I threw caterpillar and all into my 500 degree barbeque. If I had done nothing, I would have had holes in most of my luscious tomatoes.

Similarly, if winegrape growers in Napa had not jumped on battling the European Grapevine Moth discovered last September, there would have been more than the one vineyard that had grapes completely destroyed by the hungry caterpillars.

Using approved pesticides and voluntary dropping of all grapes from the backyard vines of residents, Napa was able to see a huge drop from 100,000 moths found in traps with this year's first generation, down to 1,000 in the second.

Another weapon is twist ties soaked in a small amount of the female moth's own pheromones which are hung on vines. The male moth normally follows this "scent" to zero-in on a mate. But instead of arriving at a female, they arrive at an unproductive piece of paper or trap.

As reported by Ross Farrow, after finding two male moths last week in traps near Kettleman Lane and Curry Road, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is administering a new quarantine in Lodi and will place a couple thousand more orange traps in vineyards.

Thursday and Friday this week at Oak Ridge Winery, an army of Lodi growers will be briefed on how to battle our newest pest.