Vineyard threat known as glassy-winged sharpshooter found in SLO - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Vineyard threat known as glassy-winged sharpshooter found in San Luis Obispo

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On July 13, the San Luis Obispo County Department of Agriculture found a glassy-winged sharpshooter on a lemon tree. It was found in a residential area near Highway 1 and Highway 101. Sure, it's just a bug, but this insect is capable of wiping out a vineyard.

Jac Jacobs, a winemaker for Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards, hasn't seen these pests on the Central Coast, but that doesn't mean they aren't a concern.

"The winged sharpshooter is prolific at spreading Pierce's disease," Jacobs said, "It's considered a vector for the disease and will actually travel from its home nests to vines and implant Pierce's disease as it goes from vine to vine."

The pest feeds on the stems of plants and shuts down the capillaries in the vine and cordon, Jacobs said. If enough of them repopulate, the result can be catastrophic.

"If it's bad enough, you have to turn the entire vineyard out," Jacobs said. "You're looking at another four to five years of tearing it out, replanting it, waiting for it to come back for full production."

While the glassy-winged sharpshooter isn't currently a threat to wine grapes on the Central Coast, the one that the county found last month was enough for officials to take immediate action.

"We ended up with a total of 117 traps in the one square mile that surrounded where the insect was found," Karen Lowerison, a deputy agriculture commissioner with the San Luis Obispo County Department of Agriculture, said Tuesday.

County officials also went to homes and businesses in the area, looking at trees for egg masses to see if there was potential for the pest to grow beyond one. Luckily, nothing came up.

"We think it might have just come up from LA and somebody stopped for gas or lunch and it just flew off and it was very close to that intersection and then landed in the trap," Lowerison said.

However, the county is vigilant in keeping these pests out.

"What we do out here in the county is we set traps out and monitor insect to make sure it doesn't show up here and establish a breeding population," Lowerison said.

While the county monitors for these insects, locals can help keep them out of the area by buying local trees and shrubs and not bringing any plants up from Southern California.

The glassy-winged sharpshooter doesn't discriminate. Officials say they pretty much like all plants.

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