September 02, 2015 - 8:00 PM
KELOWNA - A local winery is using a unique form of pest control to keep an invasive species from stealing their grapes.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Upper Mission is one of the few completely organic wineries in the Okanagan. They don’t use pesticides to control insects but there is another pest capable of causing even more damage to their crop.
Starlings were first introduced to Canada from Europe as pet songbirds but years later they have multiplied and now thrive across the continent. Summerhill’s biodynamicist Gabe Cipes says the birds are a major problem, especially in the late summer when grapes are in their final stage of ripening.
“Starlings blacken the skies and they even take over other birds’ nests,” he says. “Controlling them isn’t just about using one thing. We have to do a lot of different things.”
Concussion cannons work well, so does covering grapes with protective netting, but now a new technique can be seen flying over the vineyards of one of Kelowna’s busiest vineyards.
“It’s just a very well-designed kite,” Cipes says of the realistic looking bald eagle kite that even flaps its wings in the wind. “We have a lot of predator birds here so this works quite well but it’s just one of the things we use.”
The eagle was introduced last year by new vineyard manager Willem Semmilink who has decades of experience working with biodynamic farms.
Cipes says aside from the kite, they also devote ten per cent of their land to natural plants and animals, providing birds with natural foraging.
“They have distractions where they have their indigenous foods, which they prefer,” he says. “We want to include as many creatures and as much diversity as we possibly can. It’s an intellectual battle rather than a chemical battle.”
The bald eagle kites can be purchased at this website for $69.99.
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