America’s Most Wanted Bugs
Orange trees that yield bitter fruit. Inedible avocadoes, grapes and raspberries. Coconut-bearing trees under attack. All of these fruits are victims of invasive bugs, that carry not only disease but a widespread and costly national threat. Of these scourges, the most alarming is the recent plight of the orange tree.
Oranges are nearly a staple food for many families. Most of us are used to drinking orange juice with breakfast. But competing for this juice is the citrus psyllid, a creature that has sent orange crop output plummeting to its lowest level in 20 years. The psyllid carries a disease called huanglongbing that deranges the fruit and forces farmers to eventually destroys the tree. The threat is so profound that the USDA has begun a publicized campaign called Save Our Citrus.
In addition to the invasive species threat to orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit trees, other trees in the U.S. are imperiled. Hardwoods are under attack by the Asian Longhorn beetle. In Hawaii, the longhorn beetle has been discovered damaging coconut palms.
Controlling invasive insects isn’t a job limited to government officials; individual citizens can help in this battle. Laws that restrict movement of vegetables, fruits, and trees should be taken seriously. Travelers can make sure to wash off car tires and outdoor gear, and homeowners can avoid moving firewood.