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USDA Asks for the Public’s Help to Protect Citrus in Texas

Media Contacts:
Lucero Hernandez

Cecilia Sequeira

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2021 – U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) employees in Zapata, Webb, Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron Counties in Texas are working with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to inspect fruit trees in residential yards and commercial properties for signs of invasive citrus pests and diseases. Inspectors are hanging and servicing traps with lures set to combat fruit flies in those counties, while surveyors in South Texas examine citrus trees for signs of citrus canker and other diseases. These programs are a collaborative effort with TDA and the citrus industry to protect Texas citrus.

APHIS asks residents and business owners to help limit the spread of citrus pests and diseases by cooperating with survey teams and allowing them to access your property for survey work. USDA and State surveyors working in the field follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health guidelines, including maintaining appropriate social distance. Citrus program surveyors will have official credentials identifying them as USDA or State employees.

Several quarantine areas have been established in Cameron County since 2015, when citrus canker was confirmed in the area. Citrus canker was detected and confirmed in Hidalgo County in late January 2021. Citrus canker is a citrus disease caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas citri subspecies citri. The Wellington strain of this bacterium is present in the Rio Grande Valley. While not harmful to humans, canker significantly affects the vitality of citrus trees, causing leaves and fruit to drop prematurely. A fruit infected with canker is safe to eat but has reduced marketability as fresh fruit. Limes and lemons are most susceptible to the Wellington strain of citrus canker. To stop the spread of citrus canker: 1.) Allow survey teams to access your property for survey work; 2.) Avoid moving citrus plants and fruit off your property.

Following the detection of the fruit fly (Anastrepha ludens) in Willacy and Cameron Counties in Texas, APHIS put quarantines in place to contain the pest and is conducting surveys to find and treat infestations. This work is critical for treating and preventing fruit fly and citrus disease outbreaks that could devastate U.S. agriculture, threaten our food supply, and impact our economy.

The fruit fly originating in Mexico is one of the world’s most destructive invasive pests, attacking more than 40 different kinds of fruits and vegetables. This invasive fruit fly does not harm humans or animals, but it poses a serious threat to the Texas citrus industry. In 2018, the Texas citrus industry supported nearly 6,000 jobs and accounted for more than $465 million in statewide revenue.

Mexican fruit flies are drawn to ripening fruit. To keep this pest off your residential fruit trees:

  1. Remove all mature citrus fruit and any other host material, including fruit that has fallen to the ground, from your property as soon as possible.
  2. Eat the fruit or double bag it and put it in the trash.
  3. Don’t compost fruit or vegetables from the quarantined areas.
  4. Don’t move or mail homegrown fruit outside of the quarantined areas.
  5. Declare agricultural products—including fruit—to U.S. Customs and Border Protection before entering the United States from another country.
  6. Be cautious purchasing fruit from social media or backyard vendors

If you have any questions about our surveys or a citrus health concern, please contact your local APHIS office at:

  • For Harlingen, call (956) 421-4041;
  • For McAllen, call (956) 632-5300;
  • For Edinburg, call (956) 205-7702;
  • For Laredo, call (956) 726-2225.

For more information on the Mexican fruit fly and other invasive pests, visit For more information about citrus canker, visit the APHIS Citrus Diseases webpage.

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