Environment

Another farm pest, Asian citrus psyllid, found in SLO County

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.
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

For the second time in less than a week, agricultural officials have announced the detection of an invasive farm pest in San Luis Obispo County.

An adult Asian citrus psyllid was found in an insect trap in a residential neighborhood near the Veterans Memorial Building in northeast San Luis Obispo. The discovery has prompted a high-density trapping effort in the area to determine if any other psyllids are present, said Martin Settevendemie, county agricultural commissioner.

Earlier this week, three light brown apple moths were found in Arroyo Grande, prompting a similar intensified trapping effort there. These moths damage a multitude of plant species during their caterpillar phase.

The discovery of the Asian citrus psyllid is of particular concern because of the damage it can do to citrus trees. In Florida, the bug has killed nearly half of the citrus groves over the past 10 years, causing significant economic losses.

The psyllid causes citrus greening disease or Huanglongbing that is fatal to all types of citrus trees. San Luis Obispo County’s commercial citrus orchards are valued at more than $13 million and countless citrus trees are found in residential yards, Settevendemie said.

The disease is not a human health threat.

This is the second psyllid detected in San Luis Obispo County. The first was found in March near Arroyo Grande. Intensive trapping and surveying found no additional insects, but a quarantine restricting the movement of citrus stock and fruit remains in place in a five-mile area around the detection site.

The psyllid threat dates to 2012 when a single citrus tree with the greening disease was found in Los Angeles County. That was the only detection of the disease in the state.

Agricultural officials recommend that homeowners only buy citrus trees from local sources selling plants that have been inspected for pests. Call 781-5910 for information about quarantine areas.

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