Three more Asian citrus psyllids, one of the citrus industry’s most dangerous pest, have been discovered in northeast Tulare County, prompting state and county officials to begin treating the area and searching for more bugs.
Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner, said the psyllids were found in three areas: one east of Cutler, the other just south of the Fresno County line near Orange Cove and the last one east of Orange Cove.
Kinoshita said all three psyllids were inside insect traps that were placed in commercial citrus groves. The recent find comes just three days after the confirmation of another psyllid found southwest of Exeter.
“This is not good,” Kinoshita said. “But fortunately, they were found and now we can begin treating those areas.”
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Insects traps will also be placed in the areas of the finds to determine if any more are in the area.
The psyllid is feared by citrus growers because of its potential to carry huanglongbing, a deadly plant disease for which there is no cure. Infected trees produce bitter, misshapened fruit and eventually die. So far, the only case of the disease, also called citrus greening, has been found on a single tree in Los Angeles.
To prevent the spread of the bug and disease, federal and state agriculture officials along with the citrus industry and university researchers have invested millions in the battle against the psyllid. They don’t want a repeat of what occurred in Florida, where the disease has devastated its citrus industry. The tiny pest has caused more than $1.3 billion in damage there.
Bob Blakely, vice president of California Citrus Mutual, an industry group based in Exeter, said farmers have been very quick to treat their trees once a psyllid is discovered.
“When they get that confirmation, growers within 800 meters are asked to spray their fields,” Blakely said. “And many don’t even wait to be asked, they spray immediately.”
Blakely said that while the industry is concerned about any Asian citrus psyllid discovery, he is grateful that the numbers have remained relatively low.
“The good news is that we have not found the disease,” Blakely said. “And we hope it stays that way.”