Echo Park gets bugged *

Forget about those gun-toting gang members. The most wanted suspect in Echo Park these days is a tiny bug. The California Department of Food & Agriculture will be setting out traps and “planning a treatment program” targeted at a citrus-loving pest called the Asian citrus psyllid. The discovery of the psyllid on a miniature orange tree in Echo Park* marks the northernmost spotting of the bug as it moves quickly up the state, threatening the state’s giant citrus industry, reports the LA Times. The biggest threat posed by the bug is that it can carry a disease called huanglongbing that can sap away the flavor of the fruit before eventually killing the tree. There is no way to treat the disease, which spreads from tree to tree as psyllid feeds on the plants.

The disease has not been spotted in California, and citrus industry and state agriculture officials want to keep it that way. This means that Echo Park residents will once again find themselves in the middle of a battle between bugs and the state department of agriculture. Many Los Angeles neighborhoods were doused with Malathion from helicopters to combat the dreaded Mediterranean fruit flies. This time around state officials plan a ground war * against the psyllid, said the Times:

“The detection of the bug in Echo Park also triggers a quarantine in which the agency will restrict the movement of citrus plants within five miles of the find. State officials are also considering a ground-based pesticide spraying program.”

It’s not clear where in Echo Park the psyllid was trapped. But residents can learn to spot the bug and the disease on their trees at CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org.

*Update: It’s probably more accurate to say Echo Park and Silver Lake adjacent. A food and agriculture department spokesman said this morning that the bug was trapped south of the 101 Freeway in the 200 block of Coronado Street, which falls within the boundaries of Historic Filipinotown.

Spokesman Steve Lyle said a public meeting will be held first to discuss the treatment program that has been used in San Diego and other areas where the psyllid has been found. A pesticide called Tempo would be sprayed on foliage and another pesticide, Merit, would be injected into the ground, where it would be absorbed by roots. The pesticides are intended to kill the bugs and not harm trees and plants, he said.

Photo from the State Department of Food & Agriculture

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