Could bats save French vineyards from botrytis?

French winemakers are calling on the help of ravenous moth-eating bats to help them tackle the issue of grey rot in their vineyards via bat-friendly habitats.

Bats are increasingly being used as pest controllers in French vineyards

As reported by Forbes, a number of Bordeaux producers are installing bat boxes at their estates to encourage the nocturnal creatures to nest in their vineyards.

They are hoping that the pipistrelle bats, which have an insatiable appetite and are great night hunters, will gobble up the European grapevine moths and grape berry moths that cause grey rot, and help to eradicate these vine pests.

According to Forbes, scientist Yohan Charbonnier, from France’s Bird Protection League, has been studying bats in Château du Courlat in Lussac-Saint-Émilion.

In order to monitor their moth-eating ability, Charbonnier has been catching the bats in nets then and testing for the presence of moths in their digestive systems.

So far his studies have found that the bats are helping to reduce the grapevine moth population, and, in turn, increase grape yield and reduce the need for pesticides.

Thus far the studies have focused on natural wine producers in a variety of sites. According to Forbes, similar studies are taking place in vineyards in Burgundy.

Domaine Laroche has installed two bat boxes at its Roqua Blanca vineyard in the Languedoc to help reduce the presence of grapevine moths at the site.

Both the European grapevine moth and grape berry moth can cause botrytis in vineyards. Climate change is exacerbating and escalating the problem. A bat will typically consume one third of its bodyweight in food per night, making them the ideal form of vineyard pest control.

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