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Have A Backyard Citrus Tree? Check It For This Little Pest

Ezra David Romero
Valley Public Radio
The citrus psyllid is about the same size as an aphid.

With spring around the corner citrus trees are starting to push out new growth, but FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports new leaves and stems also mean more space for an invasive pest.

The citrus industry is asking California residents with outdoor orange or lemon trees to help them fight a potentially devastating pest. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Entomologist Beth Grafton-Cardwell says the Asian citrus psyllid can carry a disease that is fatal to citrus trees.

Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio
New leaves and stems arewhat the psyllids find tasty.

GRAFTON-CARDWELL: “By itself the psyllid is not too harmful but it can carry a bacterial organism that causes huanglongbing or hlb disease and that can kill citrus trees.”

Cardwell saystree ownersshould take a magnifying glass outside and look at new growth for small yellow eggs, sesame-seed sized yellow bugs, white curly tubules or aphid-like adults that perch with their hind legs up in the air.

GRAFTON-CARDWELL: “We’re trying to keep the psyllid population really low so it doesn’t  find any of those infected trees and start spreading the disease around to other trees.”

Infected bugs have not yet made it to Central California, but 12 diseased trees were found in the last couple years  in Southern California. If you find signs of the insect call the California Food and Agriculture Exotic Pest Hotline at 800-491-1899 or visit ucanr.edu/acp.

Below is a video the UC Cooperative Extensionput together on how to track the bug:

Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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