Argentine ants, Linepithema humile (Mayr), have a positive effect on populations of mealybugs (Pseudococcus spp.) in California vineyards. Previous studies have shown reductions in both ant activity and mealybug numbers after liquid ant baits were deployed in vineyards at densities of 85–620 bait stations/ha. However, bait station densities may need to be <85 bait stations/ha before bait-based strategies for ant control are economically comparable to spray-based insecticide treatments—a condition that, if met, will encourage the commercial adoption of liquid baits for ant control. This research assessed the effectiveness of baits deployed at lower densities. Two field experiments were conducted in commercial vineyards. In experiment 1, baits were deployed at 54–225 bait stations/ha in 2005 and 2006. In experiment 2, baits were deployed at 34–205 bait stations/ha in 2006 only. In both experiments, ant activity and the density of mealybugs in grape fruit clusters at harvest time declined with increasing bait station density. In 2005 only, European fruit lecanium scale [Parthenolecanium corni (Bouché)] were also present in fruit clusters, and scale densities were negatively related to bait station density. The results indicate that the amount of ant and mealybug control achieved by an incremental increase in the number of bait stations per hectare is constant across a broad range of bait station densities. The results are discussed in the context of commercializing liquid ant baits to provide a more sustainable Argentine ant control strategy.
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