LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Thousands of tiny, parasitic wasps were released across Southern California this week – but officials say they are beneficial bugs that will reduce a pest spreading a disease that’s killing the region’s citrus trees.

(credit: UC Riverside)

The tiny wasp, Tamarixia radiata, is stingless and is no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence. They are being released in neighborhoods across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties this week to reduce the populations of Asian citrus psyllid, the pest carrying Huanglongbing, according to the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture.

(credit: UC Division Of Agriculture and Natural Resources)

Trees with Huanglongbing, also known as HLB, have been found more than 2,000 residential citrus trees in northern Orange County cities, Long Beach, eastern Los Angeles County, and Riverside County, according to UC Riverside’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The disease has not been detected in Ventura County, but several Asian citrus psyllid, also known as ACP, have been collected there.

Officials say the wasps, which are a natural predator of ACP, were released periodically this week. Citrus tree owners were urged to place ant bait around citrus trees to reduce ants, which can interfere with beneficial insects like Tamaraxia, and protect harmful pests like the ACP.

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