Keeping Spotted Lanternfly Out of State

Spotted Lanternfly is An Invasive Pest

By Tim Hammerich with

The spotted lanternfly is a colorful insect pest that has been infesting vineyards and orchards in the eastern U.S. So far, we have been effective in our efforts to keep the pest away from California’s multi-billion dollar ag industry. But we must remain diligent in these efforts, says Dr. Surendra Dara, Entomology and Biologicals Advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.

D“Spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest because of the reason we don’t have any natural enemies that can suppress their populations in a natural way in a new environment,” said Dara. “And it can actually infest grapes and several other hosts in California of commercial importance. So it is important for us to be aware of the potential impact and do the need to prevent the damage.”

Researchers are trying to develop potential control methods, but the pest is known to spread very quickly and can be very damaging to vineyards and orchards.

“So they mainly feed on the stems and trunks, so they insert their stylets. Then they suck the plant uses. And they also excrete large amounts of honeydew, which can promote the growth of a sooty mold,” he said.

Keeping pests like this out of the state and developing control measures is of the utmost importance to California’s ag economy.

US Citrus Industry Working Together on ACP, HLB Funding

Critical ACP, HLB Funding Comes Only After Industry Helps Itself

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


State Citrus Mutuals in California, Texas and Florida are diligently working in Washington, D.C., for $10 to 12 million in annual funding to help their citrus regions fight Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) infestation and Huanglongbing (HLB), the disease that ACPs vector.

The three Citrus Mutuals have collaborated well for the half dozen years of the American ACP invasion. Initially, the Florida Citrus Mutual team developed the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP),” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, acp and hlb funding
Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual

“They initiated it at a very minor funding level. However we sat down with them and said, ‘Look, this is an opportunity to ensure that all of the U.S. citrus industry can work together to protect itself from Huanglongbing.’ They were gracious enough to say okay. We exerted our leadership because we had people in positions in Washington who could be very beneficial to this,” Nelsen said.

“Initially it was a Florida/California effort. We said we need to double the size of the CHRP program and allocate more dollars to California, some to Texas, and some to Arizona. Now everybody is participating to the extent that they can. Today, it is still a Florida/California effort and a Florida/California-run program in partnership with USDA.

Nelsen said those involved are working hard to protect the citrus industry, and not just chasing a problem. Funding has been helpful to California. Only after the industry does all it can, will the state expect the federal government to help.

“It’s true for all three states’ industries,” Nelsen said. Unfortunately, Texas made a mistake. They did not have a policy in place to immediately remove an HLB-infected tree. As a result, they have an HLB infection spreading.”

“Texas is being adversely impacted on the dollar level. We don’t want to see that industry die, so there is a partnership that does exist on behalf of our colleagues,” Nelsen said. “We can’t afford to make mistakes like that.”

“In order to justify the continued progress of funding on an annual basis we are going to have to continue looking ahead, taking the steps necessary and doing what is needed to protect the citrus industry from the spread of Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing.”

“We definitely have to show progress. We can’t ask homeowners to spray their trees if in fact we are not spraying ours. We can’t ask the federal government to continue helping us looking for ACPs if we are not willing to tarp our trucks to stop the spread of it. If we’re not willing to do a coordinated spray program then why should the government help us in finding HLB? If we are allowing snake oil merchants to conduct research projects, why should the federal government fund those?


The California Asian Citrus Psyllid Quarantine includes, as of TODAY, two portions of Kern County following the detections of two ACP within the City of Bakersfield, one in the Westchester area and the other in the Panorama Drive area. The quarantine zone measures 63-square miles in the Westchester area and 65-square miles in the Panorama Drive area.  A link to the quarantine maps may be found here:

The quarantine prohibits the movement of citrus and curry tree nursery stock out of the quarantine area and requires that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of the quarantine area.  An exception may be made for nursery stock and budwood grown in USDA-approved structures which are designed to keep ACP and other insects out.  Residents with backyard citrus trees in the quarantine area are asked not to transport citrus fruit or leaves, potted citrus trees, or curry leaves from the quarantine area.

County-wide Asian Citrus Psyllid Quarantines are now in place in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura Counties, with portions of Fresno, Kern, Madera, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Clara counties are also under quarantine.

The ACP is an invasive species of grave concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening.  All citrus and closely related species, such as curry trees, are susceptible hosts for both the insect and disease.  There is not cure once a tree becomes infected, the diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies.  HLB has been detected just once in California – in 2012 on a single residential property in Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County.  This plant disease does not affect human health.

Residents in the area who think they may have seen ACP or symptoms of HLB on their trees are urged to call CDFA’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

For more information on the ACP and HLB, please visit:

Featured Photo: Asian Citrus Psyllid, UC ANR

Inspections Underway in Central Valley for Huanglongbing, Asian Citrus Psyllid

On Alert for the Asian Citrus Psyllid


Source: Robert Rodriguez; The Fresno Bee


Armed with magnifying glasses and bug-sucking aspirators, state agriculture technicians are in Fresno, checking residential citrus trees for any signs of the Asian citrus psyllid and the tree-killing disease it can carry.

The psyllid poses one of the greatest threats to California’s nearly $2 billion citrus industry and officials want to keep it from gaining a foothold in the central San Joaquin Valley.

Inspectors will spend several weeks in the Fresno area and then move into Tulare County — the largest citrus producer in the state.

“We don’t want this disease here,” said Cora Barrera, a state technician. “It would be a disaster.”

Barrera recently checked several trees at a home near Fresno Pacific University in southeast Fresno. Using her magnifying glass, she looked for tell-tale signs on the tree’s leaves: dull orange-yellow nymphs and the waxy tubules that push honeydew away from their body. She also looked for adult psyllids that are about 1/8 of an inch and brownish.

When Barrera finds a psyllid, she catches the insect using an aspirator and drops it into a glass tube. Any bugs caught will be tested for the disease.

A team of about six state technicians, including Barrera, will visit thousands of homes in the city.

Jennifer Romero, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said that so far no psyllids have been found nor any sign of the disease they carry, huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening.

Citrus farmers fear the disease because there is no known cure. Infected trees produce bitter-tasting fruit and eventually die. In Florida, the nation’s orange juice capital, the disease has caused $1.3 billion in lost revenue over the past several years.

So far, the disease has only been found in one residential tree in the Hacienda Heights area of Southern California. But the psyllids have spread throughout the region, and a massive quarantine prohibits the movement of citrus fruit and trees out of the area.

Despite the regulatory net, the bug has hitchhiked its way to the Valley, having been caught in insect traps in Fresno and Tulare counties. To keep the psyllid in check, farmers have sprayed their groves and the state has treated residential trees where the psyllids have been caught.

A quarantine also has been put in place that covers 870 square miles of the Valley’s citrus belt.

But all that still isn’t enough, experts say. One key lesson learned from Florida’s losing battle with the disease is early detection and prevention.

Door-to-door residential inspections have been used in Southern California since the discovery of the disease in 2012.

Using a method developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist Tim Gottwald, the survey targets specific areas with potential risk factors. The factors are many, but include proximity to commercial citrus groves, roads used by trucks transporting citrus and flea markets.

Experts say citrus trees at flea markets and swap meets are sold without the benefit of government inspection and should be avoided.

So far, the state’s inspectors have surveyed more than 1,000 homes in Fresno and hundreds more remain.

Romero said fortunately for the inspectors most residents don’t mind the visits.

“We really have not had any problems and it helps that people are aware of the disease,” she said. “They also don’t want to lose their own trees.”

If the resident isn’t home, the state will leave an information sheet about the bug and disease and information for setting up a future home visit.

Gene Hannon, entomologist with the Fresno County Department of Agriculture, urged owners of citrus trees to be vigilant about checking their own trees. He also said that people should avoid bringing home any citrus from the Southern California area; buying citrus trees at flea markets; or grafting trees from Southern California or any other region with the disease.

“The more people are aware, the better able we are to keep this disease out of our area,” Hannon said. “We don’t want to have this problem.”

Invasive Giant African Snails Seized at LAX


By Veronica Rocha; Los Angeles Times 

Two picnic baskets packed with 67 live giant African snails were seized by federal authorities at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), authorities said.

The snails, which weighed a total of more than 35 pounds and reportedly were intended for human consumption, was apparently the largest seizure at LAX of the mollusks, which are sometimes fried and served as a snack.

The snails were discovered July 1 in two picnic baskets, which weighed more than 35 pounds, said Lee Harty of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB). The snails arrived from Lagos, Nigeria, and were headed to San Dimas.

In the past, federal inspectors have discovered one or two of the large snails hidden in luggage, but this marked “the first time this pest has been encountered in such large quantity and as a consumption entry” in LAX, said Todd C. Owen, director of field operations for the customs agency.

Giant African snails, also known as land snails, can live as long as 10 years and grow up to eight inches long. The snails can carry parasites harmful to humans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture deems the large snails as a damaging species, consuming more than 500 types of plants, according to federal authorities.

But when the snails can’t find fruits and vegetables to eat, they will “eat paint and stucco off of houses,” the customs agency said in a statement.

The incident remains under investigation.

Fusarium Dieback / Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer

Recently  a new beetle/fungal complex was detected on avocado and other host plants in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. The two fungal species are  Fusarium euwallaceae and Graphium sp., which form a symbiotic relationship with a recently discovered beetle that is commonly known as the polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB, Euwallacea sp.)

Together, they cause the disease Fusarium dieback (FD). When the beetle burrows into the tree, it inoculates the host plant with the fungus (Fig. D), which is carried in its mouthparts in a structure called mycangia.

The fungus attacks the vascular tissue of the tree, blocking the transport of water and nutrients from the roots to the rest of the tree, and eventually causing branch dieback. The beetle larvae live in galleries within the tree and feed on the fungus.

FD has been observed on more than 110 different plant species in California, including many species common in urban landscapes and on such agriculturally important species as avocado, olive and persimmon.

 Symptoms:  Each host species shows different symptoms depending on the response to infection. Sycamore, box elder, maple, red willow, and castor bean are good trees to search for signs and symptoms of the beetle, as it tends to prefer to infest these hosts first. Depending on the tree species attacked, PSHB injury can be identified either by staining, gumming, or a white-sugar exudate on the outer bark in association with a single beetle entry hole.

The vector beetle:  An exotic ambrosia beetle (Euwallacea sp.) is very small and hard to see. At the advanced stage of infestation, there are often many entry/exit holes on the tree (Fig. E-F). Females are black and about 1.8 – 2.5 mm (0.07-0.1 inch) long (Fig. A-B (right)); males are brown colored and about 1.5 mm (0.05 inch) long (Fig. B ((left)). The entry/exit hole is about 0.85 mm (0.033 inch).

What to do:

  • Look for a single entry/exit hole surrounded by wet discoloration of the outer bark
  • Scrape off the bark layer around the infected area to look for brown discolored necrosis caused by the fungus.
  • Follow the gallery to look for the beetle (may or may not be present).
  • Avoid movement of infested firewood and chipping material out of infested area.
  • Look for other hosts (Castor bean, sycamore, maple, coast live oak, goldenrain, liquidambar) showing symptoms of the beetle/disease.
  • Sterilize tools to prevent to spread of the disease with either 25% household bleach, Lysol® cleaning solution, or 70% ethyl alcohol.

Who to contact if you find the problem: If you suspect that you have found this beetle or seen symptoms of the Fusarium dieback on your tree please contact either your local farm advisor, pest control advisor, county Ag Commissioner office or Dr. Akif Eskalen by either phone 951-827-3499 or email at

For more information visit www.eskalenlab,

Massive Ant Hunt Launches Across 7 O.C. Cities

Source: Scott Martindale; Orange County Register

Susie Federico peered through her glasses at the dozens of ants swarming a tiny plastic trap she’d staked in the ground.

Federico, an agricultural technician for the state Department of Food and Agriculture, used a pair of tweezers to inspect all sides of the plastic basket, filled with one of ants’ favorite foods – Spam canned meat.

Unless they were big-headed ants, Federico let them go free.

“I’m looking for the larger head,” Federico said as she flicked off ants that had crawled up her hand and arm.

“There is not a sample as of now.”

Assigned to a residential neighborhood in northwestern Santa Ana, Federico was part of a team of state agricultural technicians that began setting ant traps Monday across a 79-square-mile swath of Orange County.

State officials are looking for the aggressive Pheidole megacephala species of big-headed ants, which were discovered last month in the front yard of a Costa Mesa home near the Santa Ana River.

“Knowing the extent of the infestation is an important consideration,” said Steve Lyle, a spokesman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture. “We’re still evaluating what this means. Is it something that needs to be taken care of? Is it something we can take care of?”

Named after their disproportionately large heads, big-headed ants are considered an agricultural pest and one of the world’s most invasive insects. They aren’t dangerous to humans.

In all, state officials plan to place Spam traps at 1,570 locations in seven Orange County cities in the coming days – the equivalent of 20 per square mile.

A team of up to eight state workers will spend at least a week systematically placing traps in neighborhoods up to 5 miles from where the original colony was discovered, Lyle said.

The study area encompasses all of Costa Mesa and parts of Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Santa Ana, Irvine and Newport Beach.

Once officials know how far the ants have spread, they can decide whether to move forward with extermination, Lyle said.

Although California is home to native varieties of big-headed ants, the species discovered in mid April in Costa Mesa was the first documented sighting of the aggressive Pheidole megacephala species in its natural environment in California. It can displace other ants and eat beneficial insects, authorities say.

The Costa Mesa colony was first spotted by amateur entomologist Gordon C. Snelling of Apple Valley, who was visiting a friend in mid April.

The friend had been complaining about aggressive ants invading his house and winding up dead in his swimming pool, Snelling said.

Snelling said the big-headed ants had likely traveled to his friend’s home inside potted plants or sod, and that they had probably been there at least a year.

“I knew the state and the county would get in an uproar as soon as I let them know,” Snelling, 55, told the Register last week.

“It’s one of those things that gets the adrenaline pumping and your brain churning,” added Snelling, who runs the website and has published scientific papers on ants. “It’s certainly caused more response than anything else I’ve done.”

Is Pongamia the New Citrus?

Source: Sam Brasch; Modern Farmer

Citrus greening disease, also known as huanglongbing or HLB, may have Florida’s limes, grapefruit and oranges headed for near extinction.

The state’s output has dropped from about 30 million field boxes in 2000 to about 15 million boxes in 2013-14. Researchers at the USDA estimate up to 70 percent of the state’s citrus trees could now be infected.

Peter McClure, the Agriculture Research Manager at one of Florida’s largest citrus operations, thinks the state might not have to wait for aphid-like phyllis flies to touch every tree with deadly bacteria. “If we go further, we will reach the threshold where we can’t feed [citrus processing] plants and they will just go away,” he said.

Farmers who haven’t already sold their orchards to developers are looking for ways to hedge their bets. In an extensive report on the disease published last year, the Huffington Post outlined a laundry list of alternatives for Florida’s estimated 525,000 acres of citrus in 2013 — down from a peak 858,000 acres in 1996.

Citrus researcher Bill Castle has identified a few varieties of pomegranates that could succeed in Florida. Others have floated the idea of peaches, blueberries, pineapples and olives, but each alternative has its limits.

Pineapples freeze at the smallest drop in temperature below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Little infrastructure exists for olive pressing or pomegranate juicing. And even if a small portion of Florida citrus farmers transitioned their acreage to peaches or blueberries, such massive production could drop prices to the point where farmers couldn’t recover a profit.

McClure has turned to Oakland company Terviva Inc. for what he thinks could be a better idea: pongamia pinnata, better known as pongamia.

A native of Australia and India, the pongamia tree is already no stranger to Florida. Since it was brought to the state in the 1920s, bright lavender blooms have added some color to front yards and parks on the southern, east and west coasts of the state.

The tree is so fitted for the environment that it has a habit of showing up in the vacant lots and backyards of Miami (indeed, some, including Miami-Dade country, label it an invasive species).

Terviva and Florida citrus growers don’t mind evergreen shade or the blossoms’ “pea-like fragrance,” but it is the tree’s seed pods that have their attention.

Inside each one is an oil-rich legume. Each season, an acre of mature pongamia trees can produce about 10 times as much oil as an acre of soy beans.

The liquid can then be turned into bio-fuel or higher-value products like lubricants and natural pesticides. The seed cake has also been used as an high-protein animal feed in India.

Unlike their some other alternatives, citrus farmers could use their existing field architecture for the pongamia. Farmers like McClure wouldn’t need to raze the beds that once rooted orange or grape fruit trees because pongam trees thrive in the same sandy soil.

Equipment is also within easy reach. Nut shakers can harvest the seeds each summer, peanut shellers can separate the seeds from the pods and a soybean crushers can separate the oil and the seed cake for their respective markets.

In addition, Schenk claims the trees are incredibly low-maintenance once they’ve been established.

The trees fix nitrogen, so they need little to no fertilizer and actually encourage grass growth, which could help farmers graze livestock between the orchard rows. A deep tap root makes them drought-resistance. And because the oil works as a natural pesticide, bugs and bacteria have a hard time messing with the early-summer harvest — a huge advantage when other Florida growers have come under environmental scrutiny for contaminating water runoff.

“In no field — in Hawaii, Texas or Florida — have we had to use any pesticide,” said Schenk. Terviva has its largest test grove near Port Lavaca, Texas, where it grows 160 acres of pongamia trees.

‘Basically, we are domesticating a wild tree. But there is no short cut to that other than having mother trees that have been observed, documented, measured and tested’

Even as Australia’s University of Queensland has shared Schenk’s enthusiasm for pongamia as a contributor to biofuel feed stock, some skeptics are holding out. In a 2011 news analysis from Reuters, officials from around the biofuel industry all note the tree as a promising option, but urge caution to investors until companies like Terviva can prove it on an industrial scale.

Schenk understands the challenge. His company has been scouring India and Australia for the best trees and improving the genetics at test facilities. “Basically, we are domesticating a wild tree. But there is no short cut to that other than having mother trees that have been observed, documented, measured and tested,” he said.

In the meantime, citrus growers in Florida like McClure might not have much time to wait for verified proof. They are already Terviva’s largest set of customers.

“Sure, it’s experimental now, but it has a lot of potential,” said McClure.