Grape Root Borer
Vitacea polistiformis (Harris)
Lepidoptera: Sesiidae

     The grape root borer (GRB), Vitacea polistiformis (Harris), is a major pest of grapes in the southeastern United States. Adult female moths lay eggs on grape leaves or weeds along the trellis. Eggs hatch into larvae, which drop to the ground and tunnel through the soil to feed on grape roots. Larvae can remain active in the soil for up to 22 months. GRB infestations are usually difficult to diagnose because the larvae are beneath the soil and are, therefore, hard to detect. In addition, symptoms of vine decline resulting for GRB feeding may not appear until years after initial infestation. The two most commonly grown types of grapes are muscadine, Vitis rotundifolia Michx., and hybrid bunch grapes, Euvitis spp. Initially, muscadines were thought to be resistant to GRB but this has proved to be incorrect. With increased production of muscadine, table and wine grapes in the southeast, GRB has become a common occurrence.
     In northern Florida, (Chattahoochee, Freeport and Alachua) GRB flight activity begins in June or early July and continues until October. In central Florida, (Leesburg, Kathleen, and Alva) activity begins in late July or early August and continues until December.
     Grape root borer is currently managed with insecticides. LorsbanŽ 4E (chlorpyrifos) is one of the few chemicals registered for control of GRB. One of the problems with LorsbanŽ 4E is that the soil around the base of the vines must be kept weed-free in order for it to be effective. Also, due to label restrictions LorsbanŽ 4E can only be applied once during the growing season and there is a 35 days-to-harvest restriction. One of our main objectives is to develop management plans that do not rely on or minimize insecticide use.
     The identification of the GRB pheromone (E, Z)-2, 13 octadecadien-l-ol acetate (EZ) has provided researchers with an alternative management tool for monitoring grape root borer populations. This pheromone is released by the adult female to attract males. Pheromones can be deployed in twist-ties or wax-based gel for mating disruption, lures for use in traps, or combined with insecticides in a gel mixture for attract-and-kill.

Grape Root Borer Research

Improving monitoring of GRB in vineyards

     Monitoring is an important part of GRB management. Data obtained from effective monitoring programs could aid growers in determining the exact time when insecticides or other management options are needed. Because GRB spends most of its lifecycle beneath the soil the best opportunity to detect infestations is to trap adult moths. Methods for detecting larvae are also being explored.


  1. Determine seasonal distribution of GRB in different grape growing regions in Florida
    [Weihman and Liburd 2007]
  2. Evaluate different trap types and pheromone baits for monitoring adults
    [Roubos and Liburd 2008; Weihman and Liburd 2007]
  3. Develop methods for detecting larvae in the soil using acoustic sensors
    [Sanders et al. 2011a]

Alternatives to insecticides for GRB management

     With limited insecticide options, growers need alternative methods for GRB control. Pheromone-based mating disruption has been used effectively on many lepidopteran pests. Attract-and-kill combines the pheromone with an insecticide. Adult male moths are drawn to the bait and poisoned. Insecticides are limited to small point sources rather than sprayed over the entire vineyard.


  1. Improve the efficiency of deploying pheromones in the field for mating disruption
    [Weihman and Liburd 2006]
  2. Improve deployment of pheromone + insecticide mixtures for attract-and-kill
    [Sanders et al. 2011b; Weihman and Liburd 2006]

Grape Root Borer Publications

  • Sanders, W.R., O.E. Liburd, R.W. Mankin, W.L. Meyer, and L.L. Stelinski. 2011a. Applications and mechanisms of wax-based semiochemical dispenser technology for disruption of grape root borer mating. J. Econ. Entomol. in press .

  • Sanders, W.R., R.W. Mankin, O.E. Liburd, and L.L. Stelinski. 2011b. Acoustic detection of arthropod infestation of grape roots: scouting for grape root borer (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae). Fla. Entomol. in press .

  • Roubos, C. R. and O. E. Liburd. 2008. Effect of trap color on captures of grape root borer (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) males and non-target insects. J. Agric. Entomol. 25: 99-109.

  • Weihman, S. W, and O. E. Liburd. 2007. Seasonal distribution and evaluation of two trap types for monitoring grape root borer Vitacea polistiformis (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) in Florida vineyards. Fla. Entomol. 90: 480-487.

  • Weihman, S. W, and O. E. Liburd. 2006. Mating disruption and attract -and-kill as reduced-risk strategies for control of grape root borer, Vitacea polistiformis (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) in Florida vineyards. Fla. Entomol. 89: 245-250.

  • Weihman, S. W. and O. E. Liburd. 2005. Grape root borer pest management in Florida vineyards. EDIS. UF/IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. IG165.

  • Liburd, O., G. Seferina, and S. Weihman. 2004. Insect pests of grapes in Florida. EDIS. UF/IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. ENY-713.

  • Liburd, O.E., and G.G. Seferina. 2003. Grape root borer life stages and IPM strategies in Florida. EDIS. UF/IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. SP-330.

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