Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.
Tiny but Destructive
Citrus products are everywhere. If you've ever had orange juice or lemonade, or used limes in your cooking, then you're familiar with how common these types of fruit are in modern society. But did you know that many citrus trees around the world are being affected by a deadly disease? It's called citrus greening disease, and it stunts the growth of citrus trees and causes fruit to develop improperly. The trees usually die within five to eight years of being infected by the disease.
What is even more interesting is that this disease is being spread by a tiny insect smaller than a grain of rice! Citrus greening disease is carried by the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri), a small insect only three or four millimeters long (a grain of rice is usually at least six millimeters). These little white and brown insects feed on citrus trees and spread the disease when they move from an infected tree to a healthy tree.
The Asian citrus psyllid eats and lives on plants in the Rutaceae family, which includes citrus trees such as limes, lemons, grapefruits, and oranges. These insects can fly and jump between trees if startled, but they usually only go very short distances at a time. The entire life cycle of this species takes place on citrus trees. They lay their eggs on new growth, and grow up eating and living on the trees.
Asian citrus psyllids are often found in citrus orchards. This is not particularly surprising, given their food preferences. After all, a citrus orchard is basically a grocery store for them, with all their food laid out in rows. However, they can also be found in isolated citrus trees, such as in people's personal gardens or yards.
This species prefers warm, consistent climates. They do best when the temperature stays between 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They also prefer coastal climates. These conditions are where the psyllid's preferred food grows best, as citrus is a warm-weather product often grown in coastal regions.
As you might expect given their name, Asian citrus psyllids are widespread throughout Asia, particularly in tropical and subtropical areas. They can be found as far north as China, west into Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and south throughout Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia.
This species is also found in the Western Hemisphere. In South America they are in Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. They live in Central America and Mexico as well as throughout the southern United States, from California across to Florida, including Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia, among other states. Basically, they can be found throughout much of the world, except they do not live in most of Africa or in cooler areas such as Europe.
In much of their current range, are Asian citrus psyllids are native to Asia, but in many regions, including North and South America and the Middle East, the Asian citrus psyllid is an invasive species. An invasive species is a detrimental, non-native species, which is typically introduced by humans (usually by accident).
The Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri) lives on citrus trees. This is an issue for humans because the insect can carry citrus greening disease, a highly destructive disease that kills the infected tree within a few years. Asian citrus psyllids spend their whole lives on citrus trees, laying their eggs on new growth. They prefer warm, consistent climates, especially in coastal areas. They do not do well unless the temperature is between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
This species can be found throughout much of Asia and the Middle East, including China, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia. They also live in several South and Central American countries, as well as Mexico and the southern portion of the United States. They are native to much of Asia, but in the rest of their current range they are an invasive species.
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Asian Citrus Psyllid: Habitat & Distribution Quiz
Instructions: Choose an answer and click 'Next'. You will receive your score and answers at the end.
Fill in the blank: Asian citrus psyllids are most likely to be found on _____ trees.
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