Hundreds of tiny insects that can cause serious damage to citrus trees have been found in San Luis Obispo County, mainly in the Nipomo area.
Asian Citrus Psyllids can carry and spread a disease known as HLB, or the citrus greening disease, which can kill a tree within three to five years.
“The HLB is fatal to citrus trees; they don’t recover from it so it is essential that we have the opportunity to trap for the insects, primarily in homeowners’ backyards,” said Samuel Bettien, an agricultural inspector.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture has placed about 2,000 traps throughout the county in yards with citrus trees to determine the location and extent of the pest population.
“I did see that they put the traps there. Hopefully, the insects go away. I will be sad if the tree doesn’t survive,” said Nancy Perez from Nipomo.
In San Luis Obispo County, there are no signs of the disease, but there have been 143 reports of the insect itself so far this year.
Besides trapping them, the county has also released tiny stingless wasps that prey on the citrus psyllids, which should help decrease the number of insects.
Ultimately, the state will take action to fully get rid of the pest.
“So, therefore, we ask homeowners who think their citrus tree may have psyllids or perhaps their tree is showing signs of the disease, they should contact the Department of Ag and bring us a sample if possible,” Bettien said.
For the meantime, the county is urging people to only buy local citrus and produce and to not transport citrus plants or fruit outside their neighborhood or across county lines.
While there has been no specific reason cited for the increase, officials say this year has been hotter than previous years and that could be a contributing factor.