Few pests pose a more daunting threat to California than the tiny Asian citrus psyllid, a potential carrier of a disease that could ravage the state’s citrus industry. Because it can spread the bacterial disease Huanglongbing, otherwise known as HLB or citrus greening disease, this insect has sparked intensive quarantine and eradication efforts in California.
What It Looks Like
The aphid-like Asian citrus psyillid is about 1/6 inch long with a tan-and-brown body, light-brown head, red eyes and mottled brown wings. When feeding, it raises its posterior end at a 45-degree angle. Nymphs are orangish brown and excrete white, waxy tubules. Eggs are bright yellowish orange.
The Threat It Poses
Nymphs and adults feed on new shoots of citrus, releasing a toxin that causes dieback and leaf contortion. But its greatest danger is the pest’s ability to spread the bacterial disease Huanglongbing (HLB). Once infected, a citrus tree produces hard, bitter-tasting fruit and eventually dies. There is no cure for infected trees.
For several years, California agricultural officials have been working to keep the disease out of the state, where it could devastate the billion-dollar citrus industry. In 2012, the state’s first tree infected with HLB was found in a suburban Los Angeles yard. The tree was removed, and the nearby area was closely monitored by state officials. There are ongoing efforts to prevent Asian citrus psyllids (ACP) from expanding into the state’s prime citrus growing regions.
The following states and territories are under quarantine for ACP: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii, Guam, and parts of Arizona and Southern California. Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and parts of South Carolina and Louisiana are under quarantine for both ACP and HLB disease. For a map, visit saveourcitrus.org.
How You Can Help
According to the Citrus Research Board’s website, CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org, California residents should do the following to help manage this pest:
- Call (800) 491-1899 immediately if you believe you have found the Asian citrus psyllid or a tree with symptoms of Huanglongbing.
- Only buy citrus trees from reputable, licensed California nurseries.
- Don’t move citrus fruit or plants into or across California.
- Cooperate with agriculture officials working to monitor and eradicate this threat.
- Dry or double-bag plant clippings before disposal.
Learn more at californiacitrusthreat.org
Treating Your Trees
Protect your trees against Asian citrus psyllid with foliar sprays or a systemic insecticide soil drench applied prior to the flush of new growth, or as new leaf growth begins, where the nymphs feed.
Products that kill or prevent this pest