What is Asian Citrus Psyllid?

These tiny insects are more damaging than you might think. For several years, California officials have been working to keep the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) out of the state, where it could devastate the citrus industry. In 2012, the state’s first tree infected with its deadly disease was found in a suburban Los Angeles yard. Since then, there have been efforts to prevent Asian Citrus Psyllids from expanding into the state’s prime citrus growing regions.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid is an aphid-like insect, measuring about 1/6 inch long with a tan and brown body, light-brown head, red eyes and mottled brown wings. Sounds hideous, right? When they feed on your plants’ leaves, their posterior end raises at a 45 degree angle. Their nymphs are orange-brown and excrete white, waxy tubules. The eggs are bright yellowish orange. At all three stages of the ACP’s life, they are incredibly dangerous to your fruit trees.

Damage to Fruit Trees

As shown, the Asian Citrus Psyllid feed on new leaves and shoots by removing its sap. At the same time, it releases a toxin that contorts and causes dieback. Mature fruit trees may be able to handle the contortion, but young trees (5 years old or less) are highly susceptible. The most hazardous ability these insects have is to spread a bacterial disease into the plants, called Huanglongbing (HLB). Once infected, a citrus tree produces hard, bitter-tasting fruit and eventually dies. There is no cure for infected trees at this point.

How to Prevent Disease

Although there is no cure once they have plagued your trees, there are simple steps you can take to prevent it. First, only purchase trees from reputable, licensed nurseries. Second, dry or double-bag plant clippings from your fruit trees before you dispose of them. Lastly, we highly recommend using the one of the strongest insecticides on the market to prevent this infestation: Bayer Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control. Protect your trees by applying it prior to new growth or as new leaf growth begins, where the nymphs like to feed. Also check your plants monthly for any signs of eggs laid by the Asian Citrus Psyllid. Look especially at your new plants for twisted leaves, waxy deposits, honeydew, and sooty mold. If you have an infected tree, it is recommended that you report the incident to the California Department of Food & Agriculture Exotic Pest Hotline: 1-800-491-1899. If your area is new to ACP infestation, they will take a sample to confirm if it is diseased, and if so, the tree will need to be removed.

As always, we are here to answer all your questions about landscaping and gardening!