Caltec Shares Innovative Pest Control Practices

A New Approach to Managing Vine Mealybug

By Hannah Young, Contributing Editor

Some innovative pest and disease control products, such as heat application to kill insects, are making their way to the market, according to Caltec.

California Ag Today spoke with Rudy Monnich, president of Caltec Ag, about some of the new ways California farmers are fighting pests.

caltec
Rudy Monnich with Caltec

“We have a product which is the diatomaceous earth that controls vine mealybugs and ants and mites in orchards and vineyards,” Monnich said, adding, “There is nothing more damaging than vine mealybug. In fact, Monterey County is forming a committee to be zero tolerant just for that insect pressure.”

The product is silica dioxide and will scarify the body of insects, dehydrate them, and in result kill them off in three or four days, Monnich explained.

However, the product is not a chemical, but a mineral, which significantly diminishes resistance issues.

“You don’t have the resistant issues build up,” Monnich said. “It’s also controlling thrip and whitefly in tomatoes.”

Caltec introduced the product this past spring.

Heat application can also be used by growers to combat insect problems.

“We are working with the Agrothermal people who have a machine that 300-degree to 400-degree temperatures will annihilate soft-bodied insects in tomatoes and powdery mildew in grapes,” Monnich said.

The application of heat kills the spores before signs of damage appear on the plant, Monnich explained.

This method of pest control is increasing the quality of wine, Monnich concluded.

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Massive Ant Hunt Launches Across 7 O.C. Cities

Source: Scott Martindale; Orange County Register

Susie Federico peered through her glasses at the dozens of ants swarming a tiny plastic trap she’d staked in the ground.

Federico, an agricultural technician for the state Department of Food and Agriculture, used a pair of tweezers to inspect all sides of the plastic basket, filled with one of ants’ favorite foods – Spam canned meat.

Unless they were big-headed ants, Federico let them go free.

“I’m looking for the larger head,” Federico said as she flicked off ants that had crawled up her hand and arm.

“There is not a sample as of now.”

Assigned to a residential neighborhood in northwestern Santa Ana, Federico was part of a team of state agricultural technicians that began setting ant traps Monday across a 79-square-mile swath of Orange County.

State officials are looking for the aggressive Pheidole megacephala species of big-headed ants, which were discovered last month in the front yard of a Costa Mesa home near the Santa Ana River.

“Knowing the extent of the infestation is an important consideration,” said Steve Lyle, a spokesman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture. “We’re still evaluating what this means. Is it something that needs to be taken care of? Is it something we can take care of?”

Named after their disproportionately large heads, big-headed ants are considered an agricultural pest and one of the world’s most invasive insects. They aren’t dangerous to humans.

In all, state officials plan to place Spam traps at 1,570 locations in seven Orange County cities in the coming days – the equivalent of 20 per square mile.

A team of up to eight state workers will spend at least a week systematically placing traps in neighborhoods up to 5 miles from where the original colony was discovered, Lyle said.

The study area encompasses all of Costa Mesa and parts of Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Santa Ana, Irvine and Newport Beach.

Once officials know how far the ants have spread, they can decide whether to move forward with extermination, Lyle said.

Although California is home to native varieties of big-headed ants, the species discovered in mid April in Costa Mesa was the first documented sighting of the aggressive Pheidole megacephala species in its natural environment in California. It can displace other ants and eat beneficial insects, authorities say.

The Costa Mesa colony was first spotted by amateur entomologist Gordon C. Snelling of Apple Valley, who was visiting a friend in mid April.

The friend had been complaining about aggressive ants invading his house and winding up dead in his swimming pool, Snelling said.

Snelling said the big-headed ants had likely traveled to his friend’s home inside potted plants or sod, and that they had probably been there at least a year.

“I knew the state and the county would get in an uproar as soon as I let them know,” Snelling, 55, told the Register last week.

“It’s one of those things that gets the adrenaline pumping and your brain churning,” added Snelling, who runs the website armyants.org and has published scientific papers on ants. “It’s certainly caused more response than anything else I’ve done.”

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