What’s eating all my grapes?

Grape leaves eaten by bugs

In case it’s not clear, I’m pretty much winging it when it comes to our grapevines. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with Brian Schmidt of Vineland Estates. Brian and the Vineland team have 118 acres of vineyards in Niagara.

Way more than our dozen vines.

Brian was extremely generous in answering my questions and talking me through how to care for our vines. He gave me a great confidence boost.

My main question was whether to pinch off any fruit this year so that the vines can focus on growing big and strong. Brian’s advice was that the key to long-term success is to not overburden the vines in their youth. So these baby grapes will be picked this weekend.

 

 

Baby grapes

Brian also gave me advice on pruning, trellising and pest control.

Pests are the one issue that’s arisen with our vines this spring. Some little worms are eating the leaves on our second year vines (the ones we planted last spring). The Lakemonts, which are brand new as of a few weeks ago, have too few leaves to be a target yet.

Little worms eating grape leaves

Our leafiest vines have been very hard hit.

Grape leaves eaten by bugs

Brian’s advice was to give our vines a case of dandruff. Not really. He was much more professional than that. He suggested diatomaceous earth. I’ve heard of DE before, but didn’t know much about it. DE is a powder made from “the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton.” Brian described it as “eating glass” for bugs. Lovely image, but sorry bugs.

The nice thing about DE is that it’s safe for humans to eat, unlike many chemical pesticides.

I sprinkled it all over the vines last weekend.

Diatomaceous Earth on grape leaves

So far, the DE doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. In fact, there are more worms than ever. From the little bit of research I’ve done on DE, it sounds like it might be more for bugs with hard outer shells and more of a topical than an ingestible. The worms are pretty soft-shelled. They’re very easily crushed when I pinch them–which may be the solution I resort to.

I’ve given the vines a second dusting of DE, and I’m hoping that this might be enough to stop the infestation. I’d really appreciate any ideas you have. Anyone know what these pests are and how to get rid of them? Should I just be patient with the DE?

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12 thoughts on “What’s eating all my grapes?

  1. Could be cankerworm. Hamilton is currently dealing with an infestation of them. Doesn’t seem to be much that can be done, and supposedly the plants will recover. Lots of trees a looking pretty sparse right now.

  2. Our go-to for all bugs here is to mix a bit of dish soap in with water and spray it on the plants. It gets rid of the bugs (poisons them or they don’t like it, I’m not sure which) but it’s safe and non-toxic. Good luck!

  3. Apparently all black worms are actually millipedes, and DE is the best thing for them. As well as keeping leaves dry (so if watering, don’t use a sprinkler that gets the leaves wet – use a soaker hose). DE on the leaves and on the ground around the plants to keep the bugs from even getting to the leaves.

  4. Sorry, since this is my first year for vines I have no suggestions. But I am going to bookmark this in hopes I don’t have to use it. 😉

    Jan, I have heard that about dish soap on plants. I may have to try that in the garden.

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