Arthropod-mediated dispersal of pathogens is known in many cropping systems but has never been demonstrated for grapevine trunk disease pathogens. Arthropods from vineyards were screened for the presence of pathogens associated with Petri disease and esca using cultural and molecular techniques. The ability of the most abundant pathogen-carrying species to inoculate healthy grapevine vascular tissues was also determined. Millipedes and ants were allowed to associate with a DsRed- Express-transformed Phaeomoniella chlamydospora, after which they were exposed to freshly pruned healthy grapevines under controlled conditions and wounds were monitored for subsequent infection. In addition, the possibility of millipede excreta, commonly found on pruning wounds in the field, to act as inoculum source was determined. A diverse arthropod fauna was associated with declining grapevines and many of these carried trunk disease pathogens. However, spiders, the ant Crematogaster peringueyi, and the millipede Ommattoiulus moreleti were the most abundant pathogen carriers. The ant and millipede species fed on pruning wound sap and effectively transmitted trunk disease pathogens.
Millipede excreta contained viable spores of Phaeomoniella chlamydospora and may serve as an inoculum source. Numerous arthropods, including beneficial predators, are potential vectors of grapevine trunk disease pathogens. Our results highlight the need for an integrated approach, including targeted management of ants and millipedes at the time of pruning, to limit the spread of grapevine trunk diseases.