All of Santa Barbara County has been placed under quarantine after recent discoveries of a tiny bug that can carry a deadly citrus disease, the county Agricultural Commissioner’s Office announced Monday.

Three Asian citrus psyllids have been trapped in Santa Barbara, and three in Santa Maria in recent months, according to a release from the ag commissioner’s office.

Another was found recently in a Goleta residential neighborhood.

While the psyllids on their own don’t pose much of a problem, they deal a lethal blow to citrus trees if they become infected with a bacterial disease known as citrus greening or huanglongbing (HLB). The disease deforms the fruit, makes it taste bitter, then kills the tree.

The devastating disease — which has no cure — was detected in Florida in 2005 and has wiped out more than $1 billion in citrus revenue there. Since then, HLB has marched across a number of southern states, leaving thousands of dead trees in its wake. It reared its ugly head in California last year, infecting a lemon/pummelo tree in Hacienda Heights.

The quarantine prohibits the movement of host nursery stock out of the quarantine area, and requires that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of quarantine area. 

Three life forms of the Asian citrus psyllid: From right, adult, nymph with secretions, and eggs.

Three life forms of the Asian citrus psyllid: From right, adult, nymph with secretions, and eggs. (Agriculture Department photos)

Residents with backyard citrus trees in quarantine areas are asked to not remove fruit from the area under quarantine. 

Santa Barbara County is now the fifth county that is entirely under quarantine for Asian citrus psyllids, and is part of the contiguous quarantine area along with Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and the western regions of San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.