Dan Suchman, a resident of a neighborhood just west of Goleta, has opted out of insecticide spraying of his citrus trees, planned next week as part of a battle against the Asian citrus psyllid, a pest that threatens the citrus industry. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Some South Coast homeowners with orange, lemon, tangerine and similar trees on their properties are scrambling to stop next week’s spraying of insecticides designed to kill an insect that represents a serious threat to the citrus industry. 

State and Santa Barbara County officials are attacking the fearsome Asian citrus psyllid with a new area-wide treatment directed at commercial growers and homeowners with citrus trees. 

The spraying is expected to begin Monday, but some homeowners feel they were not properly warned that they could opt-out if they held concerns about the chemicals’ impact on themselves or wildlife. 

Working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee and local growers have agreed on a plan to control the deadly pest, which can destroy citrus crops, according to the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. 

The program is mandated for commercial growers, but voluntary for homeowners. 

“We’re trying to encourage the monarch butterfly habitat,” said Dan Suchman, who along with his wife Dori, grow milkweed to attract the insects at their home just west of Goleta. “The spraying is detrimental to the butterflies. We’d rather have the butterflies.”

They have opted out of the program. They only heard of the opt-out possibility through a friend.

Dori Suchman said the type of insecticide to be used kills bees and butterflies.

The county intends to apply a formulation of pyrethroid to the foliage of the trees and the imidacloprid insecticide to the soil beneath the trees. The county is also asking homeowners to voluntarily participate in the program. 

The Asian citrus psyllid is a flying insect that transmits the huanglongbing virus to citrus trees. Trees with the disease produce bitter and deformed fruits before eventually dying.

Other residents in the area expressed similar concerns. Sharon Butcher said she is empathetic toward the growers, but she objects to the types of pesticides being used. 

“We have never used pesticides on our property,” she said. “We are quite concerned about it.”

She said the official notice she received in the mail was not clear that she could opt-out, but she learned about it after she attended a public meeting earlier this week on the matter.

“I support agriculture,” she said. “I support organic agriculture.”

She said she researched the chemicals and learned that one of the ingredients is used as a flea control for dogs.

“We appreciate the option,” she said. “It’s kind of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Homeowner Marsha McIntire said she is “very concerned about the bee population.”

She learned on the NextDoor website, not from any official notice from the government, that she could opt-out. She has a few lemon trees on her property. 

“We are surrounded by lemon orchards,” she said. “I don’t know how much not having them spray on our property is worth.”

Santa Barbara County agriculture officials did not return repeated calls seeking comment on the homeowner concerns.

Homeowners can call the the California Department of Food and Agriculture at 800.491.1899 to opt-out of the treatments.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.