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How do I Protect my Australian Finger Lime, Calamondin, Lemon and Orange Trees From Psyllids?

Mani Skaria, Ph.D.

Founder & CEO, US Citrus, LLC

Professor & Citrus Scientist (Retired), Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Mani.skaria@uscitrus.com

Name psyllid comes from the word psylla means plant lice. The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), scientifically called Diaphorina citri is a pest and a vector that has caused a rapid decline of the citrus industry in the state of Florida.

Difference between a pest and a vector: A pest is a living organism that causes nuisance and competition for food and water. Insects, mites, weeds etc. are common pest found in your backyard. Pest can be numerously occupying a small area. A pest would be called a vector when it carries a harmful pathogen. For example, ACP is a pest when it has no harmful bacterium in it. Whereas, it is a vector also when it carries the bacterium that causes the greening disease (also, called huanglongbing or HLB.

Psyllids

The adult ACP (top figure)

- Three to four millimeter long

- With a brown, spotted body

- Feeding position on leaves at an angle

- White, waxy secretions of the nymph is an indicator of ACP

All pictures: Source University of Florida and USDA-ARS.

The Nymph undergo five instars or stages; sizes range from 0.25 mm (1st instar) to 1.7 mm (5th instar).

See figure bottom.

Eggs are 0.3 mm, elongate, almond-shaped

One adult female lay about 800 eggs during its life of several months. It will take 15 to 50 days for a cycle.

Control (Non-chemical approach for homeowners)

  1. Cut off infected branches, carefully place them in a plastic bag, tie it and dispose of it. This will physically remove a lot of future adults
  2. Contact your local university extension department for sources of natural enemies such as syrphids, chrysopids, coccinellids, parasitic wasps such as Tamarixia radiata.
  3. The author has successfully controlled ACP infestations on his backyard citrus by dusting diatomaceous earth. (short-term strategy needs to be repeated).

Why Should Psyllids be controlled?

Apart from being a pest, psyllid is a vector of citrus greening disease or huanglongbing (HLB). This disease can make your tree useless as a patio plant, if you do not take control measures – ACP control and proper nutrition program for the tree to resist infection

References

Halbert SE, Núñez CA. 2004. Distribution of the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Rhynchota: Psyllidae), in the Caribbean basin. Florida Entomologist 87 (3).

Hall DG. 2006. A closer look at the vector: Controlling the Asian citrus psyllid is the key to managing citrus greening. Citrus & Vegetable Magazine 70 (5): 24-26.

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