Fear the Fruit Fly

Psyllid Discoveries May Prompt Pesticide Spraying

Thursday, April 4, 2013
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The California Department of Food and Agriculture could soon be dispatching squads of pesticide applicators to private residences located near downtown Goleta to coat the leaves of all noncommercially grown citrus trees with chemicals designed to kill an Asian fruit fly that’s decimated citrus crops elsewhere in the United States. Agents with the county’s Agriculture Commissioner’s Office have found one psyllid ​— ​the Asian fruit fly ​— ​in Goleta; they’ve found five in Santa Barbara near the Earl Warren Showgrounds. What makes the psyllid so devastating to citrus crops is a bacteria it carries for which no defense has been found. Although none of the psyllids trapped on the South Coast have carried the bacteria in question, state ag officials argue the pesticide campaign is still warranted; by the time the bacteria are found, they argue, it’s already too late. The state has opted not to push the matter in Santa Barbara, however, because the psyllids were found a sufficient distance from commercial citrus operations to pose an acceptable risk.

In Goleta, by contrast, two commercial operations are located within a quarter mile of the spot where the psyllid was trapped. Area beekeepers have opposed the chemical applications, objecting that the compounds involved kill bee populations. Most destructive is a synthetic variant of nicotine that’s injected into the soil near citrus trees ​— ​and is absorbed for years to come from the roots to the flowers by the targeted trees ​— ​and inflicts lethal nerve damage on both fruit flies and bees. The beekeepers have argued the chemicals involved have been linked to an onslaught of colony collapse afflicting bee populations throughout much of the United States. In Montecito, a large-scale hive die-off may be linked to the residential use of such pesticides nearby. Before the pesticide crews can be dispatched, the state and county agricultural agencies must first notify affected property owners and hold a public hearing. Typically, the spraying starts two days after. While that hearing date has not been set yet, one is expected very soon.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Psyllids are a true bug (insect order Homoptera), not a fly or fruit fly (Diptera).

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 7:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Asian Citrus Psyllid is a very serious pest that could lead to the destruction of all Citrus in the state. It can carry a virus for which the only recourse is tree removal and burning. Ironically, it is spread not by the fruit, but by the foliage. It is being spread by the cultural desire for citrus with "stem and leaf". If the bug is discovered in your orchard, you can spray, or you can remove your trees, no questions. Santa Barbara is part of the State of CA, and needs to take this infestation seriously, cooperate with the USDA, and not be the reason the bug gets loose. Neonicotinoids are not the only materials available for control of this pest.

shortrees (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 7:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I love bees, and I would hate to see neonicotinoids sprayed in my backyard. That being said, if USDA finds the psyllid on my property I will authorize them to use whatever measure is needed to eradicate the pest. The survival of California's citrus groves is at stake here.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 8:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Pesticides just do not make sense.

My line of reasoning is simple. It is unknown how much long-term loss we face in citrus production if we implement proven and organic long-term solutions to the ACP/HLB issue such as providing habitat for predator insects (such as wasps, hover flies, ladybugs, etc.) that keep the harmful, disease spreading insects in check. However, It IS known how much long-term loss we face if we start the cycle of neonicotinoid pesticide applications – this is not my opinion, but a known issue affecting populations of humans today - look up "hand pollination china" and you'll see. I call it a cycle, because once you begin using theses pesticides, you must continue to do so, else the ACP and future pests and diseases WILL return to attack the weakened citrus genetics that we created by artificial pesticide “protection”. Also, in the pesticide scenario, one must consider the other crops losses (apples, apricots, plums, vegetables, etc.) that occur from loss of pollination services provided by bees, flys, moths, butterflies, etc.

qwertynerd (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 2:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Did I mention poisoned food and contaminated ground water?


qwertynerd (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 2:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

QwertyNerd makes a lot of sense. Seems it's a choice of citrus trees or bees --- but if the bees are gone, as they are diminishing state-wide and worldwide, so will many, many other fruits and vegetables.

Please think very, very seriously and then think again before spraying or using any pesticide such as the neonicotinoids that also kill bees.

at_large (anonymous profile)
April 6, 2013 at 8:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The county ag office is holding an "open house meeting" at the Goleta Community Center on April 15, 5:30 to 7:00 pm. No formal presentation (less likely to get blowback from residents).

It is not an either/or choice (bees or fruit trees). There are sprays available for citrus trees that will not harm the bees (potassium salts with seaweed) but will kill the psyllids. This needs to be sprayed fairly often, but fruit can be harvested the same day of spraying. The local bee association lists an opt-out option for county spraying and ground treatment.

fredb93117 (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 5:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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