Can you imagine a world without orange juice? Grapefruit juice? Lemon pound cake? Lemonade? Or even key lime pie? That would be terrible, wouldn’t it? Well, if a new disease has its way, we’ll be in a less sweet and zesty world before long.
Revealed: Citrus Greening Disease
Citrus greening is a fast-spreading disease without any cure. Spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, citrus greening – which is also known as huanglongbing or yellow dragon disease – has eradicated over 90,000 acres of citrus fruit. (Don’t ask me to pronounce huanglongbing, by the way. I can’t.)
While this disease is troublesome, the organic citrus industry is most as risk – and believably so. Conventional disease control experiments were prohibited from use on organic citrus because the experimentation of techniques included the use of pesticides and GMO development. Application of either of these techniques would negate any organic qualities of the citrus being tested. (What a catch-22!)
Discover the Asian Citrus Psyllid
As the name clearly implies, the Asian citrus psyllid that’s attacking citrus groves everywhere originates from Asia, but has been found in the Middle East, Central America, Africa and right here in the United States. National Geographic reports that they arrived in Florida in 1998, and have since spread to Texas, Georgia and Louisiana.
Citrus greening stems from a “bacterial infection” that blocks the citrus tree’s ability to transport fluid, causing it to die. Whenever you see citrus fruits with a saturated deep green hue, it’s really one of the telltale symptoms that emerge as the infection ensues. Citrus Psyllids spread the disease by sucking up the bacteria as they feed on the leaves of one tree and redeposit it as they feed on another.
Citrus Greening Has No Cure
There’s no hard cure for citrus greening, but as a preventative measure, scientists are experimenting with pest control through the laws of predator and prey. Every living creature has at least one mortal enemy, and for the psyllids, that enemy comes in the form of “a Pakistani wasp that lives to attack the psyllid.”
Tamarixia radiate, or tamarixia wasps, are extremely small – too small to sting a human – but can hunt down psyllids with ease. Once they set their sights on one, this wasp punctures holes in the psyllid, and then sucks the juice out of it. Then, when it’s time to reproduce, the female version of this wasp will give it a paralyzing sting and lay an egg under its helpless body.
I’m not sure whether to laugh at this weirdness or write a D-list horror movie script loosely based on this information. If I were a psyllid, this would be terrifying to think about. But I’m not. I’m human and it’s more terrifying to me to live in a world without orange juice or lemonade.
So with that being said, don’t mind me as I pull up a chair. I’m not here to complain. I’m just here for the horror show.