Bug that spreads deadly citrus disease is found in SLO County

dsneed@thetribunenews.comApril 1, 2014 

An Asian citrus psyllid, an insect about one-eighth of an inch long that spreads a deadly citrus disease, has been found in San Luis Obispo County.

AP PHOTO/CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

A deadly citrus tree pest has been detected in San Luis Obispo County.

The San Luis Obispo County Department of Agriculture reports that an adult Asian citrus psyllid was recently caught in an insect trap in a residential area near Arroyo Grande. The insect is a problem because it spreads a citrus disease that has killed nearly half of the commercial citrus groves in Florida.

“This insect pest is of serious concern to California’s commercial citrus because it is responsible for spreading Huanglongbing, also called citrus greening disease, a plant disease that is fatal to all types of citrus trees,” said Martin Settevendemie, county agricultural commissioner.

A quarantine restricting the movement of citrus nursery stock and citrus fruit will be established by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. State and local agriculture officials will use traps and other measures in the near future to eradicate the pest.

The psyllid first turned up in California in San Diego County in 2008. Since then, it has spread throughout Southern California.

In 2012, the citrus greening disease was detected in a single citrus tree in Los Angeles County. That was the only known instance of the disease in the state.

The citrus crop in the county was estimated to be worth $13 million in 2013. The disease threatens not only commercial citrus trees but countless citrus trees found in yards throughout the county, Settevendemie said.

Farm officials are asking residents of the county to do their part in limiting the disease by buying citrus trees locally, not transporting trees into the county from quarantine areas, checking residential landscaping for unusual symptoms and strange insects and allowing county Agricultural Department staff to place insect traps in yards.

State and local officials have placed hundreds of insect traps throughout the county in an effort to detect the disease.

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