Vineyard protection & sexual confusion
At the origin of this article is the fact that since 2019 I have helped the winegrowers of Vouvray to place racks in the vines in April. And the fact that I talk about sexual confusion during the guided tours I give in the vineyard – something that generally makes tourists laugh. How are the two connected? The answer is in this article.
Racks and sexual confusion
Sexual confusion??! ... You probably didn't expect to hear about sexuality in the vineyard! Neither do our visitors! And even less English-speaking tourists who, when I translate the French technical expression “sexual confusion” literally into English, generally have a good laugh. Well, nothing really sexual here, we'll explain what sexual confusion is.
During our guided walks in the vineyard, you will surely notice these small brown plastic racks placed on the vines and on the wires at the end of the rows. Hence this frequent question: what are these for? I usually let people answer first, to collect their opinions – some answers can be really funny. Some people find that these racks look like... suppositories! They are not far from the answer as we can say that they are a kind of treatment.
Eudemis and Cochylis
Two parasites justify the use of these racks in the vineyard: Eudemis and Cochylis, whose names could refer to heroes of the Greek mythology, but unfortunately, it is quite unlikely that you will come across an Apollo in the vineyard! These are two species of moths - again, nothing very exciting, as they are wood-colored, for almost perfect camouflage, so not that beautiful - that lay their eggs in the vines (but also in blackcurrants or ash trees) in order to provide food to the caterpillars after the eggs hatch. The first-generation feeds on the flower buds, thus damaging part of the upcoming harvest, while the next one’s feed on the grapes, which leads to a loss of juice and the development of gray rot, which brings bad tastes in the wine.
How to protect the vineyard
Two solutions are available to combat these parasites (also called grape worms):
- spraying insecticides to kill the moths before they mate. This operation must be repeated several times during the season. It is the cheapest solution but the most harmful for the environment (although there are now insecticides approved for organic farming).
- the use of racks that are put in the vineyards in spring. These racks contain female pheromones which are slowly diffused in the air throughout the season in order to disorient the male moths. They smell females all around and are therefore unable to find the real females, the ones that are actually present in the vineyard. No mating, no reproduction, no eggs, no worms! And no worries for the winegrowers! It is THE eco-friendly solution that does not harm the environment or people. The only drawback: it is twice as expensive as the use of insecticides...
To conclude, I can't resist the urge to share an excerpt from a text (translated from French into English) written by Miss Glouglou, a wine blogger who explains in a humorous way how the male moths must feel when smelling all these female hormones diffused in the vineyard:
"Imagine. The weather is nice, you are walking in the vines. You are hungry. Suddenly, you can smell roast chicken. To your right. The urge to have a good grilled chicken becomes overwhelming. You can’t resist and veer directly into the direction of this wonderful smell. But suddenly, it also smells of roast chicken to your left… and then in front of you. And behind you as well. And to your right again. This grilled skin smell makes you mad, you start wandering in the vines in all directions, you do not know where to turn, you suddenly stumble on a cockerel that is lying on the ground, but you no longer even pay attention. Confused by all these smells, you have missed the only real chicken that was there and have just lost a good opportunity to eat."
That's it for this article! There would still be plenty to tell you, but I have to save some information for the wine tour that you will soon book with me! However, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to use the contact form below to comment on the article. I hope to meet you soon in the Loire Valley vineyard!