SANTA MARIA VALLEY - County agricultural inspectors are on the lookout for a destructive pest that appears to be spreading on the Central Coast.
The Bagrada bug is thriving on organic and private garden green vegetables that don't use insecticides to kill it.
"I've gotten word that a lot of organic growers have suffered heavy losses from this insect", says Santa Barbara County entomologist Brian Cabrera.
Cabrera says the Bagrada bug is native to Africa and starting showing up on the Central Coast just in the past few years.
"That's the preferred host, they like plants that are in the mustard family", Cabrera says, "the crucifer plants, that's what the broccoli, cabbage and kale are in that family."
Cabrera has been scouring roadside weeds and bushes in the county where the Bagrada bug tends to multiply.
"Now I'm just trying to see if I can see the nymphs, which are in the younger stages", Cabrera says while inspecting a mustard plant in the Santa Maria Valley, "right now all we are seeing are adults."
The Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner's office hopes to identify just how big the Bagrada bug problem is and then go to work on how to reduce the population of the destructive insect.
Cabrera says leaving the Bagrada bug in the hands of mother nature is not an option.
"The net negative is anybody who's growing vegetables in their yards is going to have their hands full trying to keep these bugs at bay", Cabrera says, "because if they don't they will destroy the crop."
The County will work with the University of California Crop Advisor to find a solution to the Bagrada bugs that organic farmers can use.
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