Tulare County's multi-million dollar bug problem just got bigger


The tiny flying insect has been found in the Central Valley and its population can mean heavy losses for the billion dollar citrus industry.

Joel Nelsen explained, "We're very concerned about the potential devastation that could occur."

The California Citrus Mutual represents thousands of citrus growers state-wide, and has been working with Ag officials to stop the insect from spreading. The Asian Citrus Psyllid can transmit a harmful citrus disease that can kill the crop.

Nelsen said, "It infects the tree with this disease, the tree eventually loses its ability to stay alive and it manifests itself first in some very bitter tasting pieces of fruit."

One of the flies was found on an inspection trap in a Terra Bella citrus grove last week. Another insect was detected on a similar trap in Strathmore earlier this month. Both sites are near Highway 65, making officials guess the flies were transported from Southern California, which is facing its own outbreak.

Marilyn Kinoshita told ABC30, "Our citrus nurseries are all very concerned because it means not being able to ship out of a quarantine if there was a quarantine imposed on us."

The Tulare County Ag Commission is working with state officials to move forward with a quarantine. The quarantine will be a twenty mile radius of Strathmore and Terra Bella. This means growers and packers within the area will have to perform extra cleaning measures on the fruit before it can be exported.

Nelsen said, "We're looking at all kinds of ways to reduce and eliminate the psyllid population but unfortunately there is still no known cure for huanglongbing."

The Tulare County Ag Commission will hold two informational meetings on Wednesday for citrus growers, packers and haulers. The meeting will address the impact the quarantine will have on the citrus industry.

Officials warn if you think your own citrus tree is infested with the bugs, call the Ag department so they can send an inspector.

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