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Grape Pests of Florida

Information for common Florida pests of grape vines and pictures of grape pests.

General Information    Grape Pests

Common Florida Grape Pests

The state of Florida produces over 1,000 acres of grapes that is used in jams, juices and wine.  Florida is currently the third highest wine consuming state in the nation and (because of its increasingly steady growth) the stability and freshness of its grapes have to be closely examined. 
There are several common pests that attack Florida's grapevines: 
grape root borer
, glassy-winged sharpshooter, grape flea beetle, grape leaffolder and the grape Phylloxera.
Below are descriptions of each pest and how to identify that they are creating an infestation.

Grape Root Borer    Glassy-winged Sharpshooter    Grape Flea Beetle

Grape Leaffolder    Grape Phylloxera    Pest Control Home    Animals and Pests

Grape Root Borer

The most destructive pest to grapes in Florida is the grape root borer.  This insect does the most damage in the larva stage to the root of the vine, as its name implies.  The adult moth is native to the eastern United States, especially Florida. Grape Root Borer Adult picture
Adult grape root borers are clear winged moths that mimic paper wasps by their size, flight behavior, buzzing sound and appearance.  They are identified by their dark brown body and yellow orange bands on their abdomen and brown scales on its forewings.  The grape root borer is a nocturnal insect that is also known to fly around during the day.  Males are smaller than females and have four orange tufts that extend from their abdomen.  The eggs of the grape root borer are small, brown and indented.  Larvae grow to 1 1/2 inches long and are creamy white.

The grape root borer goes through four stages during its life cycle: egg, larvae, pupae and adult.  Eggs are laid on the trunks, branches and at the base of the grape vines.  Once the larvae emerge from the egg, they burrow into the soil to feed on the root of the grape.  Maturity can take up to two years, depending on the location of the insect, but once it matures, the grape root borer larva leaves the root to burrow near the soil surface and to begin making its cocoon.  The adult moth emerges from its cocoon after thirty to forty five days and makes its way to the soil surface leaving behind its brown pupae case.
Females emit a pheromone to attract males in order to mate.  The female then lays her eggs, around 350, and the life cycle repeats itself.  Adults live about a week and during that time their only purpose is to reproduce.  The grape root borer usually lives for about a year in Florida lasting from egg to adult.  Activity usually increases when the grape is ready for harvest.

The grape root borer can destroy entire vineyards, usually causing the grape to loose its vigor.  They are often overlooked by harvesters because the damage occurs underground and because the adults resemble wasps so well.  Exposed roots that are infested are filled with a reddish substance that looks like sawdust.  Damage may not be apparent for several years.  Symptoms of the grape root borer include leaves that turn yellow, smaller leaves and berries, reduced shoot growth and vine dieback. 
Similar symptoms occur when pathogens and other problems are present, so it is difficult to diagnose.  One sure way of knowing the vine is infested (besides digging up the root) is to count the pupae casings under the vine. 

Glassy Winged Sharpshooter 

The glassy winged sharpshooter is an insect native to the southeastern United States.  They are the main cause of "phony peach disease" and "Pierce's disease" of grape vines. These insects are not always considered a serious threat in their native areas; however they can cause substantial damage when introduced into other areas of the country.  Recently the glassy winged sharpshooter was accidentally introduced into California and because they carry Pierce's disease, they destroyed many of California’s grape crops.
Glassy Winged Sharpshooter

The glassy winged sharpshooter is brown with ivory and black markings on its abdomen.  They have smoky-brown wings with red markings and as they are very good fliers, they are able to transmit diseases further than other leafhoppers.  Nymphs are wingless and have a gray colored body that is shaped similar to adults. 

Adult females lay eggs in groups of three to twenty-eight underneath leaves.  They cover the eggs with a white material that is scraped from her forewings.  Shortly after the eggs hatch, the leaves where the eggs were attached turn brown and scar.  They migrate to forest areas in the winter to hibernate.  Glassy winged sharpshooters feed on the water tissue of the plant.  They excrete liquid as they feed which leaves a white residue on the leaves of the plant. During hot weather, they feed on small plants causing them to wilt.  They are able to transmit diseases when they pick them up from one host plant and transfer them to another when moving from plant to plant to feed.

Besides grapes, glassy winged sharpshooters feed on bird of paradise, eucalyptus, citrus trees, crepe myrtles, sunflowers, hibiscus and cottonwood.  Because of the large number of plant hosts, they are able to flourish in both agricultural and urban areas.

Grape Flea Beetle

The Grape Flea Beetle is also known as the steely beetle and gets its name because of its enlarged hind legs that help them to jump quickly.  They are found east of the Rocky Mountains and in Canada.  The grape flea beetle attacks the buds of wild and cultivated grapevines and the Virginia creeper.  They are one of the first insects to appear on the vine as spring begins.  Severe infestations occur in vineyards that are abandoned or located near woodlands and border rows close to where they can hibernate during the winter.

The grape flea beetle over winters as an adult.  Adults have oval bodies that are metallic blue in color and antennaGrape Flea Beetle that are half as long as its body.  Eggs are yellow to orange and are laid near buds and on the upper portions of the leaves as the foliage develops.  Larvae are dark brown and spotted.  As they mature, the color of the grape flea beetle larvae lightens.  Pupae are bright yellow and have reddish brown eyes and off-white wings and legs.

The grape flea beetle attacks buds by boring into them and hollowing out the inside.  Larvae feed on leaf tissues.
This damage causes the stunted growth of the vine and other buds and usually no development in fruit. 

Grape Leaffolder

The grape leaffolder usually does damage to grapevines in September or October in Florida, after seasonal spray programs have ceased.  Eggs are identified by their small, flat iridescent shape found on the undersides of leaves.  Larvae are 3/4 inches long, glossy yellow green and are covered in yellow hairs.  They have a light brown head and light brown spots but turn bright green when they are feeding on the leaves.  Pupae are 1/2 inch long and are light brown.  Adults have dark brown wings with two oval white spots on each wing.  Males have a solid white ban on their forewings while females have two white spots on theirs.  Both have two white bands on their abdomen and white fringes on their wings.  Grape Leaffolders over winter as pupa in folded and fallen leaves.  Adult moths emerge in spring and lay eggs on the leaves, usually in mid-February.

The grape leaffolder feeds on muscadine and bunch grape leaves.  Larvae usually feed in a group.  They will fold theGrape Leaffolder leaves into rolls by spinning strands of silk in order to pull the edges of the leaf together, thus getting their name.  They then feed on the free edge of the leaf from inside the roll.  To pupate, the larvae will cut what looks like a three sided envelop into the leaf and fold it over them.  Rolled leaves give the vine a patchy look because the larvae skeletonize the leaf by their feeding.  Damage reduces leaf area and folds in the leaves restrict the leaf from sending food to the vines.

Grape Phylloxera    Picture of Grape Phylloxera

The grape Phylloxera is a pale yellow insect that is related to aphids.  They feed on the roots of the grapevine. Damage cuts off flow of nutrients and water to the vine.  Nymphs form protective coating on the undersides of the leaves to over winter. 
Because of the Phylloxera plague in the 1800s that wiped out most of European vineyards, researchers developed aGrape Phylloxera picture hybrid grape that is resistant to this bug.  The hybrid grape was generally banned because of the taste of the wine, but it is still currently being used in North America and in Florida. 

The adult grape Phylloxera are mostly wingless and oval.  The color of the adult depends on the food supply and can range anywhere from pale green, yellowish green, olive green or light brown, brown or orange.  Eggs are a lemon yellow color.  The grape Phylloxera injects poison from their saliva that causes the roots of the vine to swell.  
This swelling stops rootlet growth and the plant begins to die.  It also reduces the ability of the plant to absorb nutrients.  The only way to be certain the vine is infested with Phylloxera is to closely examine the roots.

Our thanks to Lani Powell for research and writing which made this information page possible! 

Grape Root Borer    Glassy-winged Sharpshooter    Grape Flea Beetle    Pests Site Map

Grape Leaffolder    Grape Phylloxera    Pest Control Home    Animals and Pests    Common Florida Grape Pests