Business

Fresno bug traps empty; vigilance continues

Agricultural officials have come up empty in their initial search of a north Fresno neighborhood for the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny bug with the potential to carry a deadly plant disease.

"So far, so good," said Norman Smith, Fresno County Agriculture Department entomologist.

Last week, state workers placed about 100 insect traps in the River Park area.

The neighborhood was targeted after the county's ag canine team sniffed out 10 psyllids inside a duffel bag at the Fresno FedEx facility. The package was addressed to a home in the area.

Art Gilbert, senior agricultural biologist for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said the yellow paper traps will be checked again in about two weeks.

The traps are placed in citrus trees within a square-mile area of the neighborhood.

Crews will continue to check the traps for at least two months. If another psyllid is found, the state will put out additional traps to try to determine whether there is an infestation.

The state has established quarantines for the psyllid in San Diego and Imperial counties after the pests were found there last year.

The Asian citrus psyllid is feared because it can carry Huanglongbing, or citrus greening. The disease has killed tens of thousands of acres of citrus in Florida and Brazil and caused billions of dollars in damage to citrus trees.

One of the bugs found in Fresno was infected with the disease. It was the first time a psyllid was found with citrus greening in California — where the citrus crop is valued at $1.3 billion annually.

Education

A coalition of agriculture industry groups is trying to raise awareness about the damage the psyllid and other pests can have here.

The Hungry Pests Coalition launched a Web site — www.hungrypests.com — with information about the worst pests, including the Asian citrus psyllid, light brown apple moth and gypsy moth.

The coalition is airing commercials statewide warning about the dangers of invasive pests.

Barry Bedwell, president of Fresno-based California Grape and Tree Fruit League, said people are not always aware that shipping fruits and vegetables can be harmful.

"The world is shrinking all the time," Bedwell said. "And there is going to be a lot more shipping of packages and cargo and that does increase the risk. So we have to remain more vigilant and look at fighting these invasive species."

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