- Author: Chris M. Webb
The Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) has recently received a lot of media coverage and for good reason. ACP carries the deadly Huanglongbing (HLB) bacteria, the most serious citrus plant disease in the world. The disease kills all varieties of citrus trees and related plants such as orange jasmine and Indian curry leaves. The psyllid, about the size of an aphid, does not always carry HLB, but once an ACP feeds on an infected plant the psyllid will carry the disease for life to each plant on which it feeds.
What is particularly troubling about this pest-disease complex is that it can take years for the infected citrus trees to die; therefore, owners of the infected trees may not be aware they have the disease. While fruit from infected trees can be bitter, misshapen, and inedible, the tree stays up and can continue to be fed upon by psyllids, causing HLB to spread further.
People and our global economy are moving this insect. ACP has spread through Asia, parts of the Middle East, South and Central America. It has been found in Mexico, Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and arrived in southern California in 2008. None of the ACP’s found in California have tested positive for HLB. However, it is highly likely that HLB-infected plants, brought from infected areas, are already here.
What can you do? Do not bring in plant materials from areas known to be infected with ACP. If our area becomes infected, do not move any plant materials out of our area. Purchase only certified pest- and disease-free trees from a reputable nursery. Stay informed. Check your trees regularly for signs of ACP. Report suspected ACP and/or HLB to the County Agricultural Commissioner or the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).