SAN DIEGO — The community of Rancho Bernardo is under a citrus quarantine after a citrus tree tested positive for what can be a catastrophic bacterial disease among citrus trees. The disease is called Huanglongbing, or HBL.

“It clogs up the vascular system of the tree, prevents the nutrients moving from the roots up to the tree and eventually kills the tree,” Victoria Hornbaker, director of Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention, told FOX 5 Wednesday.

It can take 3 to 5 years for the tree to die, but in the meantime, another insidious little insect will feed on the tree, spreading bacteria far and wide.

“There’s a tiny little insect called the Asian Citrus Psyllid that feeds on the vascular system of the tree, so it’s sucking out the juices from the tree,” Hornbaker said. “And when it does that, it picks up the bacteria in its body and then it can fly to another tree and when it feeds there, it spreads the bacteria.”

The State of Florida has been dealing HLB since 2005. The disease wiped out half of its orange tree production.

In order to stop the spread, the California Department of Agriculture along with the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention program are asking residents to be vigilant, to not take any citrus fruit out of the quarantine zone and report anything that seems amiss.

“Anytime we find a positive tree, we’re going to remove that positive tree to remove the bacteria from the environment,” Hornbaker said. “We’re also going to survey a 250-meter area around that positive detection site and we’re going to do a treatment to prevent the Asian Citrus Psyllid from spreading.”

In Oceanside in 2021, nine citrus trees tested positive. The trees were removed and the area was treated. They haven’t had any other issues, but the area remains under quarantine. 

Anyone who suspects their plant is infected, is asked to call the CDFA’s toll-free pest hotline at 800-491-1899 or visit the CDFA website.