SELMA – State ag officials have called for spraying chemicals in neighborhoods in southwest Selma where a bug was found that has had a detrimental effect on the state and nation’s citrus industry.
The invasive insect is the Asian citrus psyllid. It transmits the bacterial disease Huanglongbing, which is fatal to citrus trees and can even wipe out whole trees and orchards if left untreated. Because of this deadly disease, ag officials say the spraying is urgent.
“If the population explodes, there won’t be a way for homeowners to band together to treat it,” Fresno County Deputy Ag Commissioner Melissa Cregan said.
An Asian citrus psyllid was detected on April 29 inside the city limits. Psyllids have also been found in Orange Cove, Easton and other Fresno County locations over the past three weeks, Cregan said.
Although the pest primarily attacks citrus, ag officials say it also targets other plants such as curry. Psyllids take out large amounts of sap as they feed and produce large amounts of honeydew. This coats the leaves of the tree and results in the growth of sooty mold, which blocks sunlight from reaching the trees.
A public meeting was held May 17 at Selma’s library, where California Department of Food and Agriculture officials met with citizens to answer questions about the procedure. The plan is to start spraying this week or early next week.
Residents who live in the areas of town set to be sprayed should be notified 48 hours prior to the spraying. Those areas are bounded by Stillman Street in the north, Thompson Avenue in the east, Nebraska Avenue in the south and Sequoia Street in the west.
The notice informs residents of the spray procedures and asks them to stay out of the treated area until the chemicals had dried. Residents are asked to leave gates unlocked, secure their pets, move pet food and water dishes inside, close their doors and windows and move lawn furniture and barbecues away from the citrus trees.
The notice also says it is not necessary to harvest oranges and lemons or limes from the trees and shrubs before the spraying. They may be picked after the area has dried. Residents do not need to be present for the spraying to take place.
Citrus plants within the perimeter of the spray area will be treated with Merit 2F, or CoreTect, which controls the immature life stages of the bug. This will be applied to the soil beneath the plants.
Tempo, a contact insecticide that controls the population, will also be used and applied to the leaves of the plants by ground-based hydraulic spray equipment.
Cregan said it’s important for residents to realize the sprayers applying the chemicals have had stringent training on appropriate spray procedures and will be diligent to prevent over spraying.
“People have an idea that they have a hose and spray is going everywhere. [The sprayers] are hypersensitive to homeowners so if they see children’s toys or pet food, they’ll move it. They’re not out there with a fire hose,” she said.