Bad Bugs

Dog Saves Grapevine, Saving Mankind

OK, so I exaggerate. The real story is that golden retrievers are being used in Napa Valley to sniff out vine mealybugs, nasty pests that do $3-$5 million in crop damage annually. With any luck, this link will get you to a recent Wall Street Journal piece. The gist is this...

Trained to detect the scent of female mealybugs in heat, the dogs point and bark when they smell mealybugs on a grapevine. Workers can then cut away the infected vine limb before it contaminates the rest of the crop.

Retriever sniffs for scent of mealybugs on grapevine

Autumn is out to bust mating mealybugs before their progeny destroy grapevines photo: Dani Vernon hide caption

toggle caption photo: Dani Vernon

This ain't breaking news; the intent to use dogs in this way was first reported back in February, '06. But as heard on KQED's California Report , the bug-sniffing dogs have now taken to the fields, much to the dismay of many a mealy.

In reading between the lines, it seems the effort may require breeding "high-drive, high-initiative" retrievers to do the job. Which leads me to pray, Please Lord, please make everybody STOP breeding dogs until we have homes for all the rest. Amen.



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I second your prayer to reduce rampant dog breeding. As a search and rescue person who has trained 3 search dogs (similar to training for mealybug hunting), I know that you do not need specially bred dogs for these jobs. Instead of breeding dogs, the trainers could go to the dog pound and find dogs with high prey instincts (the pup who keeps coming back when you push it away).
An interesting story nonetheless.

Sent by Michelle Keating | 11:04 PM | 7-27-2007

Discussions about banning breeding areleading us down a dangerous path.I have been doing purebred dog rescue for almost 20yr &, in that time, things have been improving.Fewer are euthanized, more are rescued.The instinct is to blame busy shelters on all breeding in general.Unless you outlaw all dog breeding, people will still seek out puppies, then abandon them when they grow up, or dump grandma's dog when she get committed, or save $$ by dumping the cancer-ridden dog at the shelter.Do you want a future where dogs are bred furtively in secret & sold in back alleys?I say instead of condemning all "breeding," instead let's improve on what's working: Low-cost to free spay/neuter clinics; better coordination with rescue/re-homing; education on responsible ownership & breeding.

Sent by Diane | 4:35 AM | 8-1-2007

I personally would appreciate seeing more gardening, pictures and less commentary about non-gardening subjects. How many dogs have you helped, rescued or found new homes for? As they say, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Sent by Diane | 4:40 AM | 8-1-2007

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