Wine and predator insects: how they intertwine on the vine

You may ask, “What does wine have to do with predator insects and Native Wildlife Neighborhoods (NWN)?”  I hope you get comfortable with your favorite glass of wine and cozy up in your favorite place to sit and relax while enjoying the following short story.

Written by Debra Kiefel

Over lunch a couple of weeks ago, Alrie Middlebrook shared this wonderful story with our lunch companion and myself as we chatted about how we can all transition to a more sustainable way of living.

A number of years ago she was visiting a vineyard in Napa Valley.  Before driving up to this vineyard she had already known that no herbicides or pesticides were used on the monoculture vineyards.  This was a puzzling idea due to the fact that all monoculture crops need poisons to kill off bugs and weeds.

When at this vineyard she had the opportunity to speak with the gentleman who was the owner and operator at the time.  He was an older gentleman whom had bought the vineyard some decades before. 

The vineyard had a riparian area that was adjacent to where the grapes grew.  One of the first projects after his purchase was to pull out all of the non-native invasive plants along the riparian areas.

Over a number of years he continued the work of pulling all of the non-native invasive plants until one day there were no more.  With this simple but arduous act, the riparian area once again flourished with California native plants.

He never planted any native plants, however, he gave them the opportunity to make a comeback.  When the native plant communities returned so did the insects that evolved with the plants, and within that returning insect community were the predator insects.

Once the predator insects made a comeback they not only kept the “pest” insects in-check along the riparian areas, but they also took care of all of the pest insects on the grapevines!

This is just one wonderful example of what native California plant communities can do for both human food crops and natural wildlife.  This practice can be done right in your own backyard or front yard.

If you like the idea of having a vineyard of your own—I have seen vineyards growing even in the normal small “postage size” backyards that dot the Santa Clara Valley—and making your own wine, you too can plant CA native hedgerow plant communities around the perimeter of your yard to help keep down insect pests, and restore the soil you grow your food garden and/or grapevines on.

My hope is that each time you share wine and wonderful moments with friends and family that you will share this story with them, and the idea that Native Wildlife Neighborhoods are about restoring the Earth’s natural systems to the Santa Clara Valley that we all call home.

Until next month:  Enjoy your wine, good moments with good friends, and all of California’s natural beauty!

If you are interested in hosting a Native Wildlife Neighborhood presentation at your home, place of business, or other places where people gather, please contact Debra Kiefel at daxkiefel@gmail.com or jane@middlebrook-gardens.com.

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