Californian wine country could face widespread devastation if an infestation of the glassy-winged sharpshooter cannot be contained.

The colony of insects, which spread the fatal vine malady Pierce’s disease, was discovered in Vacaville, South West California in June.

Despite the implementation of an expensive control programme, more insects have been found outside of the area which has been treated with pesticides.

This is the closest the insect has come to the wine regions of Napa and Sonoma.

The insect has been found just 20 minutes away from Solano County. Agricultural commissioner Susan Cohen insists there is minimal risk to vineyards.

‘Vacaville is a non-agricultural, commercial area. If we have to have an outbreak anywhere, then this is the best place to have it,’ she told decanter.com.

‘I don’t think it’s had a major impact on the wine producers, apart from making them more watchful of their crop.’

According to the department, the infestation is significant, covering an area of half a square mile.

The problem is the county’s top priority and inspectors have been distributing flyers asking the general public to help track down the insects.

Susan Cohen said, ‘We had two public meetings and since then, the locals have been extremely responsive and very eager to help.’

A total of US$2 50,000 has been allocated to Solano County in order to wipe out the sharpshooter insect, targeting the eggs, nymphs and adults of the species.

This is of little relief as there is still no cure for Pierce’s and efforts so far have not eradicated the pest.

Experts say a serious outbreak of the disease in California’s premium wine regions of Napa and Sonoma would be at least as devastating as the outbreaks of phylloxera in the 19th century which destroyed the wine industry of most of Europe.

Napa’s agricultural commissioner Dave Whitmer said he ‘hadn’t slept much’ since the glassy winged sharpshooter emerged on the county’s doorstep.

NB US$1.00 = €0.82

Written by Rosie Tanner