The Asian Citrus Psyllid is a tiny bug with the potential of wiping out Central California's 2 billion dollar a year citrus industry. It's already in the Los Angeles basin.
Bob Blakely of California Citrus Mutual says pesticide sprays do not eradicate the bug, “We have pretty much lost the battle. The Asian Citrus Psyllid is established in the Los Angeles Basin.”
It causes a disease called Huanglongbing, otherwise known as HLB or Greening Disease. One infection leads to thousands more and it may take several years before any symptoms show. The disease first ruins fruit and eventually kills the tree.
The bug is an invasive species and has no natural enemies in California. University of California researchers went to Pakistan to find a predatory wasp called Tamarixia radiate. The baby wasps eat the Asian Citrus Psyllid.
UC extension entomology specialist Mark Hoddle says after years of research, they are confident that the wasps are a safe way to battle the Psyllid in California. They have tested it with other native insects. Their research shows the wasps will starve if there are no Asian Citrus Psyllids to eat.
More than a dozen test releases in Southern California appear successful.
Since the wasps need a population of Asian Citrus Psyllids to survive, they are not a useful tool in the Valley right now. But Blakely believes they could save our crops, should the Psyllid arrive.
Blakely says, “It's not unreasonable that at some point if the Psyllid became established we would be using it quite extensively."