Sabotaging Sharpshooters

May 21, 2021

What could ruin such a beautiful view as this ↑, you ask? Well…enter the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

They’re savage: The boujee wine and citrus-loving bug isn’t necessarily lovin’ on California’s vineyards. These guys transmit bacteria from one plant to another, leading to fatal plant diseases like Pierce’s Disease (PD) in grapes. In 1999, PD wiped out nearly 60% of vineyards in Temecula, California. Ouch.

Hold the line: In 2019, the USDA kept populations of the pest in check in California with containment efforts. And since they also love citrus, 25,000 acres of citrus trees were treated as part of the program in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

For over 20 years, researchers have refined treatment programs that kept the pest from moving north and doing more damage.

But then 2020 happened. 2020 had it all. In California, researchers saw an increase in populations of the sharpshooter.

  • Kern County: From 50,000 in 2019 to 150,000 last year
  • Tulare County: 10,000 to 30,000
  • Fresno County: 200 to 1,800

Now this: Even after years of research and containment of the glassy-winged sharpshooter, there’s another threat in town: the native blue-green sharpshooter. Wet, warm winters mean the native sharpshooters could make vineyards their target again, shooting bullets of the disease that comes with them.

While vintners fear the glassy-winged guys, scientists think more resources should go toward battling the blue-green variety.