Pest control is an important part of the wine business. And we don’t mean dealing with hordes of drunken tourists staggering around winery tasting rooms.

We do mean the kind of pests that can decimate a vineyard, like the phylloxera infestation that almost destroyed the French winemaking industry in the mid 19th Century. Thankfully, phylloxera is now no more than an occasional annoyance, but Mother Nature can be a crafty old biddy, and there are plenty more vineyard-unfriendly pests where phylloxera came from.

But instead of blasting these new-found pests with a variety of industrial-strength poisons, some Napa Valley wineries are turning to Good Mother Nature to keep Bad Mother Nature in check.

Case in point, mealybugs, which cause the devastating leaf-roll virus. When spraying insecticides wasn’t effective, the vineyard manager for Spring Mountain winery hooked up with a UC Berkeley etymologist to release various insects that preyed on mealybugs into Spring Mountains vineyards. A parasitic wasp called anagyrus did the trick. It lays its eggs in the body of the mealybug, and when they hatch, the baby wasps eat the bug from the inside out, sort of like a bad Hollywood horror movie.

Or take one of the latest scourges of the valley’s vineyards, the glassy-winged sharpshooter. It causes Pierce’s Disease, which blocks the flow of water in a vine and eventually kills it. There is no know cure. Bluebirds, on the other hand, hate the glassy-winged sharpshooter and will eat them up as if they were five-star dinners at the French Laundry. So Spring Mountain installed more than 1,000 birdhouses throughout their vineyards to give bluebirds a home, and they’ve been gobbling so many of those nasty glassy-winged pests they’re no longer much of an issue.

Of course, bluebirds don’t have much of an affect on those hordes of drunken tourists. But we can always hope.