Asian Citrus Psyllid threatening local growers

Bug can cause big problems for Citrus industry

KERN COUNTY, Calif. -  

A citrus greening disease making its way through the San Joaquin Valley is causing major concerns.

The dangerous Asian Citrus Psyllid is threatening area growers.

This part of the year is historically when the Psyllid is the most active and citrus experts say it’s also the time when vigilance is key.

California growers are on the lookout for a traveling bug that can potentially produce large problems within the citrus industry.

"It's a small insect that doesn't pose any risk when it’s by itself, but can transmit deadly citrus disease Huanglongbing and there's no cure for Huanglongbing," said Alyssa Houtby with California Citrus Mutual.

Although it's tiny, the insect is visible and can rapidly produce the citrus greening disease, which has already been spotted in Los Angeles County and there's fear it may be heading towards the San Joaquin Valley.

"Once the tree gets it, it kills it within 5 years and it stops baring fruit.  The fruit it does bare is bitter tasting. We can't market.  You eat it but it doesn't taste very good.  So it kills the tree," she said.

Leaders with the California Citrus Mutual say growers in Florida have experienced HLB for the last six years and have resulted in the loss of 6600 jobs.  They say catching the bug early can prevent huge losses.

"If you're here in Kern County in Bakersfield and you have a citrus tree, just keep it at home. Don't move it across the county lines. Don't even take it to your neighbor’s house because it can potentially care the Asian Citrus Psyllid," said Houtby.

With more residential citrus trees than commercial ones in California, experts are keeping a close eye on the insect than ever before.

"Homeowners are a valuable part of the solution here.  So, if we can control it by not moving citrus and checking our own backyard often and if you're outside just check your trees," she said.

Experts urge homeowners not to bring citrus into the valley from southern California or other states for that matter and only purchase citrus trees from reputable, licensed nurseries.

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