The first find of an Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) in California’s major citrus production belt has the industry on alert.

The insect was found in a glassy-winged sharpshooter trap on a post in a commercial Navel orange grove southeast of Lindsay, Calif. (Tulare County).

The psyllid tested negative for Huanglongbing disease (HLB).

No ACP quarantine was expected in Tulare County at press time. Field surveys will be conducted for two weeks after the find to check for additional psyllids. An insecticide spraying would then likely start.

“There was a partial part of a psyllid found in the trap,” said Ted Batkin, president, California Citrus Research Board, Visalia, Calif. Batkin discussed the insect find during the “Looking for Terrorists – Pest Threats to the Citrus Industry” seminar held Feb. 15 at the 2012 World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif.

“There is a lot of surveying underway,” Batkin said. “It appears we do not have the ACP in Tulare County in any kind of breeding population.”

Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County agriculture commissioner, said, “We have a pest detection report. It was a positive (ACP) find.”

Tulare County ranks first in California Navel orange production.

The ACP, Diaphorina citri, is the primary vector (carrier) of HLB – also called citrus greening — the worst citrus disease in the world. Every citrus tree worldwide infected with the bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter results in tree death.

“HLB is a death knell to the tree,” Batkin said. “Once the bacteria gets into the citrus tree it is toast. It may take five to 10 years after infection but the tree will not survive.”

The psyllid itself is more of a nuisance pest causing minor tip burn on new plant leaf flush, Batkin says. Every place in the world the psyllid has been found eventually gets HLB. 

Jay Van Rein, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), confirmed that the agency’s ACP “preliminary determination” in Tulare County occurred Feb. 2. USDA confirmed the find Feb. 7. USDA confirmation is required for any pest not previously found in the county. 

The Tulare County find was a male psyllid, Van Rein says.

Kinoshita says the psyllid’s “back half” was found in the trap. Identification was determined from the insect’s genitalia.

“All it takes is one ACP to be declared an official find,” Kinoshita said. “They are treating the insect as a hitchhiker.”

HLB has not been found, officially, in California, but CRB officials believe the disease is already in residential citrus in the Los Angeles basin. Last year, nearly 14,000 psyllids were found in California in many repeat locations. In the first 20 days of this year, 800 psyllids were found in Los Angeles County.