An Asian citrus psyllid has been found in an orange grove south of Exeter, the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner's Office said Tuesday -- the third such discovery of the feared citrus pest this year in the county.
A single insect was found in a trap on Saturday, the department said.
Inspection crews combed the orange grove for more psyllids, but no new bugs turned up, said Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Gavin Iacono.
As with other finds of the dreaded insect, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will likely impose a five-mile quarantine in an effort to stop its spread, said Steve Lyle, a department spokesman.
In a related development, the CDFA said Tuesday that it has expanded the size of quarantine zones around Dinuba, where dozens of psyllids were recently found on some backyard trees, and around Wasco in Kern County.
Asian citrus psyllids are deeply feared in the Valley's citrus belt because they can carry huanglongbing, known as HLB or citrus greening disease.
Infected trees decline in health and produce bitter, misshapen fruit until they die, and there's no known cure for the disease, according to plant scientists.
Half of Florida's citrus trees are infected and the industry has lost billions, so each find in the Valley sends a shudder through the industry.
"This latest find is in the heart of our citrus belt, so it is very disappointing to hear the psyllids are being moved into a new part of our county," Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita said in a statement.
The latest discovery signals that it's probably just a matter of time before the insect establishes itself in the Valley, said farmer Gary Caviglia of Ivanhoe.
"We're all on edge, there's no doubt about it," he said. "It seems we're finding these all over now. You're waiting for the other shoe to drop."
Psyllids are "a mobile pest," so a new find is not a major surprise, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations at California Citrus Mutual, an orange growers lobby,
"The bright side is that they show up in small numbers," he said. "We think we've got a good chance of keeping it under control."
Citrus Mutual is telling growers to "keep vigilant" and use pest control sprays that also kill psyllids.
The bug was also found in June in trees near Porterville, an area also under quarantine. Under quarantine rules, host plants for psyllids can't be moved out of the area, and fruit bound for market must be free of stems and leaves when shipped out.
Those with backyard citrus trees are asked to not transport fruit out of a quarantined area.
The source of the psyllids found in the Dinuba backyard is still under investigation, Lyle said.
To date, no infected trees have been found in the Valley. A diseased tree was found on a residential property in the Hacienda Heights area of Los Angeles.
Anyone who thinks they may have seen the Asian citrus psyllid is asked to call California Department of Food and Agriculture's Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899.
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