Fruits

Ventura County Is Asking You To Not Share Or Move Your Homegrown Fruit

Parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties are under quarantine for two highly invasive pests, the Queensland fruit fly and Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, which can infest homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Ventura County posted an “urgent agricultural alert” on social media Wednesday warning people not to share or move their homegrown produce.

About the Queensland fruit fly

This exotic pest originated in Australia and feeds on many types of fruit and vegetables, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Adult Queensland fruit flies are typically 6 millimeters long, which is a little bigger than a new pencil eraser. The brown bug has yellow markings on its body and transparent wings that nearly double its size. The adults feed on honeydew, decaying fruit, nectar, and plant sap. They are also strong fliers and can infest new areas quickly.

A close-up of a small brown and yellow bug sitting on a green leaf. The bug has wings larger than its body.

An adult Queensland fruit fly lounging on a leaf.

The damage to produce starts when a female lays their eggs in fruit. Those eggs hatch, and the larvae eat their way out, leaving a tunnel through the flesh of the fruit.

Organisms that produce decay are then able to enter, leaving the inside of the produce a rotten mess. As many as 40 of these damaging larvae have been found in just one peach, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Several important California crops are at risk, including stone fruits, citrus, dates, avocados, melons, and tomatoes. Queensland fruit flies were first found in the state in San Diego County in 1985, and popped up again six years later in Orange County.

This pest was also accidentally introduced in New Zealand a few years ago, but was successfully eradicated in 2020, according to the country’s Ministry for Primary Industries.

About huanglongbing disease

Huanglongbing is also known as citrus greening and is one of the most serious plant diseases in the world, according to the Department of Agriculture. Once a tree is infected, there is no cure.

It’s spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny brown sap-sucking insect. These bugs transmit the disease-causing bacteria from tree to tree while feeding on their new shoots. The trees can seem symptomless for months or even years before starting to show signs of infection, which makes the disease difficult to detect.

An early symptom is yellow, blotchy uneven mottling of leaves which will lead to yellow shoots on individual random branches. More and more leaves will progressively yellow until the symptoms advance into a major decline of the tree’s health. The infected tree will eventually produce only a few small, deformed and bitter fruits until it ultimately dies from the disease.

A bin full of tangerines. Some of the fruits are orange and healthy looking, while others look small, green, and deformed.

Tangerines that are affected by citrus greening, which is caused by the Asian citrus psyllid, in Florida.

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Joe Raedle

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Getty Images North America

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Huanglongbing was first detected in the U.S. in Florida in 2005. The disease has reduced citrus production in the state by 75% while more than doubling the cost, according to the USDA. It’s spread to several other states in the years since and was first found in California in 2012.

All commercial varieties of citrus are susceptible, including oranges, limes, grapefruit, and Indian wood apples. The disease can cause “substantial” economic and environmental damage to residents and the state’s citrus industry by making fruit and juice inedible, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

How can I protect my produce?

For the Queensland fruit fly, a 90-square-mile area around Thousand Oaks in L.A. and Ventura counties is under quarantine.

And for huanglongbing disease, parts of Southern California from the Oxnard area of Ventura County past the Escondido area of San Diego County are under quarantine.

Moving trees is the fastest way to spread these pests, so the best thing you can do is keep your homegrown produce to yourself. Make sure to inspect your citrus plants regularly, and if you think they might be infected with disease or insects, report it right away.

You can report any potentially infected citrus plants to the U.S. Department of Agriculture here.

You can also report it to the California Department of Food and Agriculture here, or by calling their pest hotline at (800) 491-1899.

What questions do you have about Southern California?




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