Pest Alert! Asian Citrus Psyllid
We’re in the middle of a far-ranging infection that is literally affecting the entire planet. The culprit is an aphid-like insect no larger than the head of a pin, known as the Asian Citrus Psyllid; it can be the carrier of a deadly disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as Citrus Greening Disease, or yellow dragon disease. Once a citrus tree is infected, there is no cure. Citrus crops in Asia, Africa, India, South and Central America have been devastated. But the real story is that the psyllid has been found in Mexico, Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and most recently, in California.
Infected trees produce green, bitter, misshapen fruit that is unsuitable for sale as either fresh fruit or juice, and most infected trees die within a few years.In June of 2008, the psyllid was spotted right across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. A few months later, it was detected in San Diego and Imperial counties. The quarantine has now expanded to include all of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura counties, and parts of most of the rest of the counties in California. We all can help to put an end to this scourge by following some basic common sense moves.
Stopping the importation of infested plants is our first line of defense. A quarantine has been implemented on citrus plants and close relatives of citrus such as orange jasmine or Indian curry leaves, that arrive in airplanes, ships, trucks, cars or by mail, shipped from other states and countries.
Believed to have originated in China in the late 1800’s, citrus greening disease shows the following symptoms:
- Blotchy mottling of leaves, and yellowing of leaves on a single shoot or branch
- Small, lopsided, bitter fruit that remains green even when ripe
- Twig dieback
- Stunted, sparsely foliated trees that may bloom off-season
Government and industry are taking steps to stop the spread of citrus greening and the Asian Citrus Psyllid that carries it. They are ramping up inspection of host plants at international ports, state lines, airports, and mail-sorting facilities.
Many areas in the United States have been put under quarantine, including Florida, Louisiana and Georgia. When infected trees are found, they are removed to prevent the spread to healthy trees. There has been a serious effort put forth supporting awareness campaigns at the national and state level to educate the public about this very real threat.
You can help mitigate the effects of Asian Citrus Psyllid infestation by not moving citrus out of areas under quarantine for citrus greening disease. Do not buy host plants online unless you can guarantee that the plant is not from a quarantined area. If you own citrus plants, inspect them on a regular basis for the disease, and the psyllids themselves. Look for eggs, often nestled in crevices of unfolded leaves. Twisted and curling shoot tips, sooty mold, and white waxy deposits on the leaves are all signs of psyllid damage. And if you detect the insect, or an infected plant, report it. Act fast.
Until a treatment or a cure is found, stopping the spread of the Asian Citrus Psyllid and HLB by halting the movement of plants is our only hope of saving America’s citrus. For more information on the Asian Citrus Psyllid, please visit UC Riverside’s Center for Invasive Species Research.