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Asian citrus psyllid, harbinger of doom?

January 27, 2009 |  6:54 am

Citrus Times writer Jerry Hirsch reports that an Asian citrus psyllid was discovered in San Diego's hip Hillcrest neighborhood last week. What is a citrus psyllid, you ask? After reading the story in today's Business section, I can only conclude that a more menacing foe has never presented itself to California's $1.2-billion citrus industry.

Not only is the bug with the precious-sounding name responsible for spreading deadly greening disease to citrus trees, it also possesses many qualities that one normally associates with evil super villains. Hirsch describes it as a "a durable insect that can withstand freezing temperatures and hurricane-force winds." He also writes that "they will reproduce -- like aphids, they are asexual and don't need to find a mate -- creating whole colonies of citrus greening carriers."

Here's hoping that the little menace can be stopped in its tracks (some say it could find its way to Riverside and Orange counties before the end of the year). In the meantime, researchers "have not been able to develop a disease-resistant tree or rootstock ... [and] there are no effective parasites or predators to use against the psyllid population."

-- Jessica Gelt   

Photo credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times