Santa Barbara County is filled with thousands of acres of citrus trees. However, over the past year, populations of a dangerous pest called the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) have been increasing throughout residential areas of Santa Barbara County, and this spike in detections has made citrus growers concerned about the threat of the fatal plant disease this pest can carry, called huanglongbing (HLB).
While HLB has not yet been found in the area, all it takes is one citrus tree to be infected with the incurable plant disease to signal a major shift in the fight to save the citrus trees.
Nearly 200 detections of the insect— found in areas stemming from Carpinteria to Goleta — have occurred within the first three months of 2021. In 2020, Asian citrus psyllid detections spiked to over 748, surpassing the number of bugs found in our area in 2018 and 2019 combined.
The coastal growing region — of which Santa Barbara County is a part — is the state’s major producer of lemons, in addition to Valencia oranges. While the tiny pest may not appear dangerous, psyllids have been infesting Southern California’s backyard citrus trees for over eight years. While huanglongbing hasn’t made its way into a commercial citrus grove yet in California, Florida’s commercial citrus production has been decimated by this deadly disease.