Natural Pest Control from the Animal Kingdom

May 17, 2016 No comments »
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One of the owl boxes at Ponte Winery

In December of 2007, Ponte Winery began the transition to become a sustainable winery. We challenged every department – from The Restaurant to the Wine Club – to adopt ways to lessen their environmental footprint in order to have a positive effect on our business, and more importantly, our world and future generations. Our efforts go beyond recycling and remembering to turn out the lights – these things are important, but just scratch the surface of what we can do to really make an impact on the environment.


Why sustainability? To keep this land as beautiful and productive as we can for many generations.

One challenge that took some thought was pest control in our vineyard. With hundreds of acres of vineyards to care for and maintain, the easy option was just to use pesticide. That wasn’t ideal for us. And so we took a cue from Mother Nature herself and invited the owls to move in. Throughout our vineyards are tall owl boxes, raised high off the ground.  The idea was to get them to make their homes there and to sustain themselves on our pests. Gophers, mice, moles, etc., are all part of what can cause problems with the growth of our vines…and they’re also all part of an owl’s diet. See how that works? While the owls aren’t meant to completely eradicate the pest population, they certainly reduce the number of pests to a manageable level. Similarly, bird boxes have been raised to address some of the smaller pests like worms, grubs and other pesky insects.

We can’t take the credit for such a brilliant idea; many vineyards use the same method for their own pest control and many have been doing it for much longer than us. Natural pest control doesn’t stop there, though. Take a look at some other animals vineyards employ to help with their dirty work…

  1. Sheep! These wooly creatures are fantastic for keeping weeds under control in the vineyards.  A breed called babydoll sheep are especially helpful since they are too small to reach the grapes. Peter Yealand of Yealand Wines in New Zealand has been successful with these cute helpers.

    Hard at work! Photo credit
  1. Dogs. Where you have sheep, it’s a good idea to have sheep dogs to make sure they do their jobs, and to chase off potential sheep predators like coyotes.
  2. Geese. These birds are used for weed control in a number of vineyards all over the world.
  3. Chickens. Also helpful in controlling weeds, chickens will go after harmful insects as well.
  4. Falcons and Hawks. These birds of prey hunt starlings, which eat grapes. In addition to us, Cakebread Cellars and Gallo Family Vineyards in Northern California both use this method to control pests.

    He’s coming for you! No wait, he’s coming for a grape-thieving starling. Photo credit
  5. Bobcats. These felines can be helpful in controlling gopher populations…although we’re not so sure our Members and guests would like seeing them nearby!

We don’t know if sheep or chickens will be a part of our future at Ponte (we’d surely have to keep them away from our organic garden!) but we do know that sustainability is a constant work in progress. We’ll never stop researching about and implementing new and better ways to decrease our carbon footprint, and you shouldn’t either. Our earth is worth the effort and no change is too small. Click here to get some resources and great ideas of what you can do for the environment in your very own home.

–Erica Martinez

Resource: decanter.com/wine-pictures/gallery-vineyard-animals-unlikely-helpers-289138


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