Making great wine requires skill and more than a little luck. Winemakers have many challenges in the quest to make a great vintage. Add ladybugs to the list.
According to an Iowa State University study presented recently to the American Chemical Society, a growing number of wines suffer from what is being called Ladybug Taint. Ladybugs are a natural control for aphids and other pests. But Iowa State researchers also found they excrete a foul-smelling liquid that is damaging some wines with a green pepper or roasted peanut odor.
It turns out that ladybugs produce methoxypyrazines, a natural defense mechanism. Certain species of ladybugs release more of these odors than others, which the researchers found could have as many as 28 different odors. Ladybugs are often present in vineyards and the researchers say only a small amount of methoxypyrazines mixing with grapes can impact a wine's flavor.