A notorious insect capable of spreading a disease fatal to citrus trees has been discovered in a Roseville residential area, prompting a quarantine that includes portions of Sacramento County.
The discovery of the Asian citrus psyllid in Roseville in June is the third spotting of the tiny bug in the greater Sacramento area since last fall. The discovery triggered the imposition of a quarantine boundary that was finalized Friday and spreads as far as North Highlands and Citrus Heights.
The quarantine means purchasers of nursery stock within the quarantine zones aren’t allowed to move the plants, including plant parts, outside the zones, said Kevin Martyn, Sacramento County deputy agricultural commissioner. Retailers have been told to notify customers about the quarantine, he said.
The tiny flying insect can carry a disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, which has devastated much of Florida’s citrus industry in recent years.
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So far in California, the disease has been found in citrus trees in Los Angeles and Orange counties, but it hasn’t spread to the heart of state’s commercial citrus industry in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Citrus is a $2 billion-a-year industry in California.
“The disease hasn’t been detected north of the Tehachapis,” said Steve Lyle, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The insects themselves have been discovered throughout the state, “from San Diego County at this point to Northern California,” he said. Quarantines are in effect in all or parts of at least 25 counties.
Lyle said it wouldn’t be surprising if the disease spreads north.
“If the pest is there, history tells us the disease will eventually follow the pest,” Lyle said.
The bugs generally move north on agricultural trucks or are carried by unwitting consumers carrying plants or fruit.
“It’s incidental, it’s accidental, but it’s happening,” said Chuck Ingels, a University of California farm adviser.
The disease is fatal to trees but isn’t harmful to human health, according to state officials.
“They haven’t really figured out how to control it,” said Chris Strutz, a Sloughhouse citrus grower and pest-control adviser. “It’s a very devastating disease.” He said the disease has curtailed Florida’s ability to supply orange juice in recent years.
In the Sacramento region, the first discovery was made last October near Lincoln, generating a quarantine order covering 118 square miles. On Feb. 1, the bug was found in West Sacramento, creating a quarantine whose boundaries extended into Sacramento as far as South Natomas, the Arden Fair area and Fruitridge Road, Martyn said.
The latest discovery, in a backyard in Roseville, was made June 9. Nurseries and commercial tree growers were notified shortly after the insect was discovered, although the official boundary of the quarantine area, extending into North Highlands and Citrus Heights, wasn’t made final until Friday.
Ed King, Placer County’s deputy agricultural commissioner, said county officials are particularly focused on making sure the insect doesn’t spread to Placer’s commercial mandarin tree industry. “That is our highest priority,” King said.
Mandarins are a $1.6-million-a-year business in Placer but are mainly grown in the foothill region, fairly well removed from the two discovery sites in the county.
King said the trees in Lincoln where the bugs were found were destroyed. In the Roseville discovery, only a single bug was found and the tree was treated but not destroyed, he said.
Martyn said no bugs have been found in Sacramento County, but he said it’s probably a matter of time before the insect turns up. “We’re surrounded by the finds; it’s likely that we’ll find it eventually,” he said.