Hunt is on for citrus pest in Kern County

Hunt is on for citrus pest in Kern County »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - State crews are watching an area of Wasco daily for any sign of the serious citrus pest that's made its first appearance in Kern County. Experts have had their guard up, and now 275 traps are set out and being checked in a 9-square-mile area.
 
As of Monday, no more Asian citrus psyllid have been found, according to Kern County Deputy Director of Agriculture Nancy Holland. She told Eyewitness News all the traps were serviced on Sunday, and they'll be checked daily until Friday. After that, the traps will be checked once a week.
 
It's just been a matter of time until the pest turned up. One male ACP was confirmed last Thursday, Sept. 5, and that started the rigorous response.
 
On Monday, that included a trip to Paula Gladden's front yard, and she knew why.

"There's a bad bug, and it's a threat to our orange or citrus tree economy," the homeowner told Eyewitness News. She's absolutely right.
 
These tiny bugs can carry a disease that's already caused severe damage to thousands of acres in Florida. The bug found in Kern County did not carry the disease, but nobody's taking any chances.
 
Gladden's tree is not the one where the ACP was detected, but she lives in the area where it was found on the southwest edge of Wasco. In her yard, a crew from the California Department of Food and Agriculture used a vacuum-type device to look for the insects and also tapped the leaves to check for them.
 
That type of checking will go on in an 800 meter area around the spot where the ACP was found, and Holland said the state will also conduct the "intensive" trapping in the 9-mile area.
 
Kern County Ag Commissioner Ruben Arroyo told Eyewitness News it's likely the one ACP had "hitch-hiked" here. It was found in a resident's yard, not in a commercial grove. Those growers have been very worried.
 
"Florida biologists first detected the pest in 1998 and the disease in 2005, and the two have now been detected in all 30 citrus producing counties in Florida," Arroyo said in a statement.

The bug and the disease have also turned up in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.
 
In California, the only sign of the disease has been in one backyard tree in a Los Angeles-area neighborhood. The bugs, but not disease, have been found in Tulare County.
 
"It's important not to take fruit and plants, move them around," Holland urged. That's one of the ways they're trying to stop the spread of the citrus disease.
 
There's no cure for it if HLB gets into a tree.

"The diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies," the ag commissioner explained. That's why they want its spread stopped.
 
Arroyo also told Eyewitness News treatment of trees will be carried out on all citrus plants within 800 meters of where the ACP was found in Wasco.

And, a town hall meeting will be organized, probably for next week, to get more information to residents in the affected area.
 
In that 800-meter area, state ag workers have started an "intense house-by-house" search, Holland said on Monday. She said that includes 310 homes, and about a third have no citrus trees.
 
A Pest Hotline has been set up for any questions, or if a resident thinks they have seen the pest. That number is (800) 491-1899.
 
"I think they'll get rid of it as soon as they can," Paula Gladden said. She's lived in her Wasco home for about 30 years, and she's had the orange tree in the front yard for about 15 years. Gladden was happy to see the state crews checking it, and appreciates their help.
 
"What's going to happen here will depend on how many (bugs), or if we find any more," Holland said. "we're just trying to find it, and if we find any more, then try to eradicate it."