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Your backyard citrus is at critical risk

Your backyard citrus is at critical risk

An insect called the Asian citrus psyllid can carry one of the most devastating citrus diseases in the world called Huanglongbing (HLB). Once a tree is confirmed with the disease, it will die and must be removed to limit its spread. Lakewood residents can play a critical role in stopping the spread of HLB by searching for signs of the pest and the disease on their trees.

The psyllid and HLB are an imminent danger to California’s citrus. The disease has been detected in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties. While HLB has not yet been confirmed in the City of Lakewood, it has been found in neighboring areas of Orange, Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Tustin. The number of HLB confirmed cases has skyrocketed in Orange County with almost 550 halfway through 2018. These Orange County finds represent more than half of the 813 confirmed HLB cases in the state.

Lakewood residents should stay vigilant in looking for HLB symptoms, which include blotchy or yellowing leaves; yellow shoots; lopsided, small and bitter fruit; and premature and excessive fruit drop. Due to the quick nature of its spread and the recent detections of HLB in Southern California, all residents should avoid moving citrus from their property.

If you see suspicious symptoms of HLB, act quickly and call the free hotline: 800-491-1899.

In addition to checking for and reporting HLB symptoms, California residents should also look for the psyllid as it can spread the disease when it feeds from tree to tree. First detected in California in 2008, the psyllid has been found in parts of Northern California and is now well-established in Southern California. The pest is brown, about one-eighth of an inch long, and feeds with its body at a 45-degree angle. Young psyllids are yellowish orange and produce a white, waxy substance that can be seen on leaves. Adults, juveniles and eggs are typically found on tender, new leaves.

The psyllid feeds on all citrus trees, including orange, lemon, lime, mandarin, pomello, kumquat, grapefruit, tangerine and more. If you have any of these plants in your backyard, inspect them monthly, or whenever watering, spraying, pruning or tending trees.

If you spot psyllids, visit your local nursery or garden center to get advice on products that can help protect your citrus tree. Be sure to dry out citrus clippings and double bag them before removing the plant material from your property. You can also obtain citrus care advice at the University of California Extension IPM website or contact your area Master Gardener program office for citrus tree care and gardening tips from experts in your area. Taking proper care of your citrus trees will encourage healthy citrus growth and protect the tree from HLB.

The psyllid can fly short distances and be carried by the wind. However, the main way the psyllid spreads throughout the state is by people transporting infested plants or plant material. For this reason, everyone in California should not move citrus and only purchase citrus trees from reputable, licensed nurseries in your area. Diseased trees need to be removed in order to protect other citrus trees on the property, neighbors’ trees and the state’s vibrant commercial citrus industry.

The pest and disease are a death sentence for your backyard citrus and threaten the livelihood of California’s backyard citrus. By working together, we can all save our citrus trees. Visit CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org for additional resources and more information.