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Dangerous citrus pest expanding in the Valley

September 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The latest discovery of a pest with the potential to devastate the Valley citrus crop caught ag officials by surprise. Two Asian citrus psyllids were found in traps in a Dinuba neighborhood on Tuesday.

But entomologists checked three young trees in the backyard of a home next door and discovered an infestation of what appeared to be psyllids in various stages of development.

Fresno County Ag Commissioner Les Wright explained, "This is the first find where we've got a breeding population. All of our other finds were just an adult psyllid in a trap. This certainly ratchets up our concerns."

Psyllids can spread a citrus tree killing disease called huanglongbing. It hasn't been determined if the pests carried HLB but Tulare County ag officials were disappointed because this latest find comes after six psyllids were found in the Porterville area in July.

Tulare County Assistant Ag Commissioner Tom Tucker said, "We believed we had ACP pretty well stopped in its tracks at that point and to find them again further north was not something we wanted to see."

A half-mile area around the find was treated with pesticide. The California Department of Food and Ag will set more traps in a five mile perimeter. The quarantine area for the first time will extend into Fresno county, in Reedley.

Tucker said, "Nobody wants to have a quarantine in their area."

But it's necessary to stop the spread of the pest. Wright said homeowners can help in the battle by checking the new growth of their backyard orange and lemon trees for evidence of the psyllid. Wright explained the process, "Get really close and you'll see a waxy looking substrate on the leaves and stems. You're gonna see that before you see the insect itself."

The state is expected to announce the five mile quarantine by next week along with plans for more trapping and treatment.


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