A press release from the California Department of Food and Agriculture
It is estimated that 70 percent of homeowners in the greater Los Angeles basin have citrus trees in their yards – and a dangerous pest is threatening the trees they have come to love.
The pest is called the Asian citrus psyllid, and it is confirmed to be in Imperial, San Diego, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, sparking quarantines in those areas. The pest can be a carrier of a fatal tree disease, called Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease. While not harmful to human health, HLB destroys the taste of citrus fruit and juice, along with the production, appearance and value of citrus trees. Once a tree is infected with the disease, there is no cure and the tree will eventually die.
While the psyllids in California have not been found to be carrying the disease, the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program is reminding homeowners that we all play a critical role in keeping the disease out of California.
“The best way to protect Arcadia’s backyard citrus is to inspect for the pest,” said Ted Batkin, representative of the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program. “We want to encourage homeowners to do their part and inspect for the pest before it’s too late.”
Currently, treatment of the pest is happening throughout Los Angeles by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Residents may be asked to allow a yellow sticky trap to be placed in their trees or for their trees to be treated for the pest.
“By cooperating to allow a trap to be placed on a tree or allow for treating of psyllids, residents are helping to not only protect their backyard citrus trees from a disease that kills trees, but they are also helping protect their neighbors’ trees,” said Batkin. “Because this pest can travel easily, it’s important that the entire community step up to fight against this pest.”
The Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program is offering the following tips to California homeowners:
- Inspect your citrus trees each month or whenever watering, spraying, pruning or tending trees. It is especially important to inspect during active growth or flushing.
- Plant only certified, disease-free trees from reputable nurseries.
- Do not bring any plant material into California from other states or countries and don't move citrus plants out of quarantined areas, because they might be carrying psyllids.
- Dry or double bag plant clippings before putting them in green waste recycle bins to avoid moving psyllid.
- Cooperate with agriculture officials on detection and treatment of the Asian citrus psyllid.
For more information and to find out what to look for, visit www.CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org. If you think you have found a psyllid, act fast. Time is critical. Call the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline at 800/491-1899 or the Los Angeles County Agriculture Commissioner at 626/575-5451.
The pest and the disease have already caused devastation in Asia, India, parts of the Middle East, and South and Central America. The pest and the disease have been found domestically in Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. In Florida, the psyllid and HLB are ravaging the citrus industry. The insect pest, in the absence of disease, is also found in Hawaii, Texas, Arizona and California.