There’s good news and bad news in the ongoing fight to protect Santa Barbara citrus from the fatal huanglongbing (HLB) bacterial infection carried by the Asian citrus psyllid. Adult and nymph psyllids have been found in several spots in the county, but they have so far tested free of HLB disease.
The County Agricultural office has set out state Department of Food & Agriculture traps since August that have captured psyllids in over a half dozen places. County entomologist Brian Cabrera reports that the presence of the bright yellow nymphs indicates that the psyllids have established breeding populations.
Numerous bugs were found in the La Patera neighborhood bounded by North La Patera Lane, Calle Real, and Cathedral Oaks. The area west of San Roque’s Stevens Park was another hotspot, specifically the North Ontare and Foothill zone. Toro Canyon Road and Romero Canyon were two neighborhoods in Montecito found to have psyllids. Other recent finds were in Goleta’s Old Town, near Casitas Pass and Foothill roads in Carpinteria, and out at Refugio.
The psyllid nymphs are normally found in the new growth at the tips of branches. Adult psyllids hang out on stems and leaves, hold themselves at a characteristic 45-degree angle, and often resemble a thorn. County Ag requests that citrus owners who discover psyllids bring samples to its offices at 263 Camino del Remedio in Santa Barbara or 624 West Foster Road in Santa Maria, so that scientists can confirm the insect species and have them tested for HLB.
Abandoned citrus trees and species other than citrus can act as “breeder” locations, Cabrera stated. Kumquat, Choisya (mock orange), and Cape chestnut are among the other trees known to become infested with Asian citrus psyllid. A full list can be found here. More information on how to deal with an infestation can be found here at the UC Integrated Pest Management Program.