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Environment & Science

Eco-wars: Inland Empire vs. the Asian Citrus Psyllid

Adult Asian citrus psyllid
Adult Asian citrus psyllid
Photo courtesy the CA Department of Food and Agriculture

No, it’s not a new underground sci-fi horror movie. This very real environmental showdown rages on in the Inland Empire, where tiny bugs are threatening the local citrus economy. It’s gotten dire enough that the California Department of Food and Agriculture is calling it an emergency situation.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid carry a disease known as Huanglongbing (AKA citrus greening), and once a tree contracts it, there is no cure. Already spotted in the cities of Banning and Cabazon earlier this month, the battle against the insects is in full swing. The good guys are bringing in a wide variety of weapons to throw at them, from insecticides to another bug.

Tiny wasps known as tamarixia radiata disrupt the lifecycle of the Asian Citrus Psyllid, so they’ve brought some in from Pakistan and released them in almost 70 areas between Los Angeles to Riverside.

So far, the bad bugs haven’t been detected at any of the state’s commercial groves, but the threat remains.  Officials in the Coachella Valley are especially concerned with the very real possibility of the Asian Citrus Psyllid making their way to Coachella, Redlands and countless citrus trees throughout the area.

“As the top citrus-producing state in the nation, California's citrus industry has a $1.8 billion impact on our state’s economy," said State Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet. “It's crucial that we act immediately to protect Riverside County from the devastating effect of this pest on our local economy as well as our environment.”