Dangerous citrus pest found near Wasco

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) A tiny pest capable of killing citrus trees has been detected in Kern County.

An Asian citrus psyllid was found and trapped Thursday near Wasco, according to the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner. Local officials will begin an extensive survey and treatment program, they said.

The pest carries a plant disease that, if left unchecked, could destroy a region's citrus industry. There is no cure once a tree becomes infected. The diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies, the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner's office said Friday.

"We're working to determine the full extent of this incident so that we can protect our state's vital citrus industry as well as our backyard citrus trees," Commissioner Ruben J. Arroyo said in a news release. "We want to emphasize citrus fruit is safe to eat and the disease is not harmful to human health. Working together, we will rid our state of this invasive species."

Florida biologists first detected the pest in 1998. The pest and disease are also present in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. Biologists in Mississippi, Arizona and Alabama have detected the pest but not the disease.

Detection of the Asian citrus psyllid has led to quarantines this summer in Tulare, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Imperial, Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.