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Insect known to host fatal citrus disease found in Turlock
Officials with state and county agricultural departments will be inspecting citrus trees in certain areas of Turlock after finding two Asian citrus psyllids, which can spread a fatal disease to the trees. - photo by Journal file photo

The California Department of Food and Agriculture will soon quarantine a portion of Turlock after an invasive species known to carry an incurable citrus disease was found earlier this week within city limits.

Two Asian citrus psyllids, which are invasive insects that feed on the leaves and stems of citrus trees, were confirmed on Monday at a residential property near Highway 99 and West Main Street, according to Stanislaus County Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Dan Bernaciak. These insects are known to spread huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease.

After an Asian citrus psyllid feeds on a tree that is infected with HLB, it carries the disease-causing bacteria for life and can transfer the disease when feeding on other trees. Although HLB does not pose a threat to humans or animals, there is no cure once a tree becomes infected.

A citrus plant infected with the disease typically declines and dies within a few years.

 “This is not a threat to humans at all,” said Bernaciak. “What it is, is a threat to citrus trees. The Asian citrus psyllid can spread huanglongbing, otherwise known as the citrus greening disease, and that disease is 100 percent fatal to citrus trees.”

The Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner, in cooperation with the CDFA, is currently in the process of conducting an extensive visual survey around the detection site in order to find nearby citrus trees and examine them for the Asian citrus psyllid.

In order to establish the extent of the infestation, Bernaciak said that there will be an increased amount of yellow sticky panel traps placed on all citrus trees within a nine square mile radius from the detection site.

The CDFA will also carry out a treatment program for trees within 400 meters surrounding the site where the insects were found. Affected residents will be notified prior to any treatment.

A quarantine will soon be placed by the CDFA on all citrus plants and fruits within a five mile radius of the detection site in order to prevent the movement of host material that may be affected. This quarantine will apply to homegrown citrus and commercial citrus growers.

Under this quarantine, Bernaciak said that citrus growers will be prohibited from taking fruit from their tree or moving citrus plants outside of the quarantine area.  The fruit can still be consumed within quarantine boundaries.

“The fruit is safe to use, there is no human health issue here,” said Bernaciak. “We just don’t want the fruit to move outside the quarantine area to prevent the possible spread of the insect.”

All citrus and closely related species are susceptible hosts for both the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB. Plants found to be infected with HLB are destroyed and removed in order to prevent the disease from spreading to surrounding citrus trees.

 “The Asian citrus psyllid is a dangerous pest of citrus,” said Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner Milton O’Haire. “We’re working to determine the full extent of this incident so that we can protect our state’s vital citrus industry as well as our backyard citrus trees.”

“We want to emphasize citrus fruit is safe to eat and the disease is not harmful to human health. With the public, the agricultural industry and government working together, we hope to prevent the harm this invasive species can cause,” continued O’Haire.

Residents in the area who think they may have seen the pest are urged to call the Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899. For more information on the Asian Citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease, visit