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Citrus Pest Creeps Into San Diego County

Aired 10/8/12 on KPBS News.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid has arrived in San Diego County and could have dire consequences for the citrus industry.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid has arrived in San Diego County and could have dire consequences for the citrus industry.

The tiny insect is in itself harmless. But the Asian Citrus Psyllid can carry an incurable disease fatal to citrus trees.

So far, none of the insects found in San Diego County have been infected. But Pauma Valley citrus farmer Warren Lyall says growers and residents need to be vigilant.

"About 10 years ago this pest showed up in Florida. And, at that time, they did not see it as a significant pest," he said.

But, within three to four years he said more than 200,000 acres of citrus groves in Florida were destroyed, having been infected with HSB, or citrus greening.

Citrus brought in more than $76 million to San Diego farmers in 2011. But it's not just growers who stand to lose if HSB spreads.

"It will kill the citrus trees that are so much a part of our backyards in California. It's a part of our culture and we don't want to see it lost," said Lyall.

Officials are encouraging residents to inspect their citrus trees for the aphid-sized insects.

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