The impact of California's drought on San Diego County

Drought Helping Insects to Thrive

Scientists said they've seen calls for insect-infected trees double in the last year

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    NEWSLETTERS

    San Diego County scientists say drought conditions are inviting unwanted pests that destroy your trees and gardens. NBC 7's Liberty Zabala tells us how you can protect your plants from insects that thrive during drought. (Published Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014)

    It's not just the lack of rain stressing your plants out: now, so are bugs.

    County of San Diego scientists say the drought is weakening trees, gardens and farms, making them more susceptible to insects.

    These dry and dusty conditions make for perfect breeding ground for the tiny -- yet mighty -- creatures.

    "They can easily get out of control, spread viruses, spread diseases and suck the juice out of their plants," said County of San Diego Agriculture Scientist Tracy Ellis.

    Bugs can somehow sense that a plant is stressed, and for them, that's an open invitation to feast. So the dry and dusty conditions have farmers and scientists worried.

    "The dust brings in more bugs onto our vegetable crops, so there's going to be a lot more. So we're going to have problems with pests," said farmer Phil Noble.

    And it’s not just mites; insects that thrive in drought conditions are also wreaking havoc on trees.

    Scientists said they've seen calls for insect-infected trees double in the last year.

    "We have big problems with bark beetles or other wood-boring beetles that come in and ultimately cause the death of the tree,” said Ellis. “Once the tree is invested with bark beetle there's really not much you can do but cut it down."

    Ellis said the best thing you can do is choose which plant you really want to keep alive.

    “And use water sparingly to keep those important plants alive,” said Ellis. “Things are going to be thrown off balance due to having the drought."

    If you think your plants may be infested with pests, scientists can help diagnose the problem. They recommend dropping off a sample at the county's agriculture department.