Posted on

Don’t just throw out dead Christmas trees

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) advises consumers who purchased evergreens this holiday season, to check for an invasive pest called elongate hemlock scale (EHS) and properly dispose of any holiday greenery that may show signs of infestation.

Plant health inspectors found EHS this year, at multiple Wisconsin retailers, who imported and sold the evergreens that came from other states.

“You can leave decorations up for the holidays, but we want to make sure consumers are disposing of infested evergreens properly to prevent this pest from establishing itself in Wisconsin,” said Brian Kuhn, director of the DATCP’s Bureau of Plant Industry. “If you know your evergreen did not come from Wisconsin, or it is showing signs of EHS, make sure you dispose of it properly.”

Consumers can identify whether their evergreens have EHS, by looking at the underside of the branches. Brown spots on the underside of the needles are a sign of the pest.

This season, infested stock was comprised of fir trees, wreaths and décor from suppliers in North Carolina, with some material labeled as “fresh from the Blue Ridge Mountains.” All Wisconsin retailers who sold these products, cooperated with the DATCP, removed the items from their shelves and destroyed them.

However, many items had already been sold, and it is possible other uninspected retailers also received and sold infested items.

The DATCP is working with regulatory staff from other states, to prevent infested firs from going to areas where this pest is not established, as pesticides are not effective at killing EHS. EHS attacks over 40 evergreen species, including hemlock, fir and spruce.

The preferred method, is to burn an EHS-infested evergreen, to kill the pest. The other method is to bag evergreen wreaths or décor separately, and put them in the trash. If a municipality picks up Christmas trees, consumers may put an infested tree out for municipal pick-up.

To prevent the pests from spreading, do not compost or place infested evergreens in a forest.