Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips

Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing Disease

Published   4/17

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Brownish adult, yellow nymphs, and white wax of Asian citrus psyllids (left).

Brownish adult, yellow nymphs, and white wax of Asian citrus psyllids (left).

Symptoms of HLB on leaves and fruit (right).

Symptoms of HLB on leaves and fruit (right).

Yellowish nymphs of Asian citrus psyllid with red eyes and white waxy tubules.

Yellowish nymphs of Asian citrus psyllid with red eyes and white waxy tubules.

The Asian citrus psyllid and the deadly bacterial disease it spreads, huanglongbing (HLB), threaten citrus trees in backyards and on farms. The psyllid arrived in Southern California in 2008 and is now fully infesting that region. HLB disease was first detected in Los Angeles in 2012 and is gradually spreading. As infected trees are found they are destroyed. All types of citrus—including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and mandarins—are affected, as well as a few closely related ornamentals.

What are some of the concerns?

  • The Asian citrus psyllid carries HLB disease from tree to tree.
  • HLB disease will kill citrus trees in as little as 5 years.
  • There is no cure or effective control method for HLB disease.

Inspect your citrus trees for psyllids.

  • Reducing the psyllid population helps to slow the spread of HLB disease.
  • From spring through fall, check trees monthly and look for psyllid eggs, nymphs, and adults on newly forming leaves.
  • Adults are about the size of an aphid and have brownish mottled wings. They feed with their head down and their “tail” in the air.
  • Nymphs are tiny and yellowish, and they excrete white waxy tubules.
  • Psyllids feed on plant sap and produce sticky honeydew that may be covered with black sooty mold. However, other citrus pests (e.g., aphids and soft scales) may cause this symptom too.
  • Although this psyllid can damage leaves, it doesn't kill trees by itself; and the fruit is safe to eat.

What are the symptoms of HLB disease?

  • Leaves show an asymmetrical yellow mottling with patches of green.
  • Fruit are small, lopsided, fall off the tree easily, and the juice tastes bitter.

What should you do if you think your tree has HLB or if you find the Asian citrus psyllid in central or northern California?

  • Contact your agricultural commissioner’s office, or call the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Exotic Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 to confirm a find.

How can I manage the psyllid and disease?

  • Plant trees from reputable nurseries to avoid bringing either the insect or HLB into your yard.
  • Don't move citrus plants or clippings out of your county since this can spread the insect or disease.
  • Parasitic wasps that attack Asian citrus psyllids have been released in some areas. These wasps will help to reduce psyllid numbers but aren't likely to stop the spread of HLB disease.
  • You can reduce psyllid numbers by treating infested trees with insecticides including oils, soaps, carbaryl, or systemic imidacloprid. Oils and soaps don’t last long, so they need to be reapplied every few weeks. Carbaryl and imidacloprid are longer lasting; but because both are toxic to bees, don’t use these products when citrus trees are in bloom. Make sure foliar-applied insecticides reach the new growth where young psyllids hide.
  • Only apply pesticides if psyllids have been found on your trees.
  • When HLB is detected, diseased trees must be removed to protect the trees around them from becoming infected.

Minimize the use of pesticides that pollute our waterways. Use nonchemical alternatives or less toxic pesticide products whenever possible. Read product labels carefully and follow instructions on proper use, storage, and disposal.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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