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Holiday cheer - invasive fear protect WI with local trees
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 12/08/2023

As the holiday season approaches, many are eager to celebrate with festive decorations and traditional Christmas trees. However, the joy of the season can be overshadowed by the potential threat of invasive insects traveling to Wisconsin via holiday greenery.

Shahla Werner, Plant Protection Section Manager at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), has observed a rising trend of invasive pests hitchhiking on holiday decorations. Recent inspections revealed the presence of elongate hemlock scale, a non-native pest posing a significant threat to the state's ecosystem and Christmas tree growers.

Introduced to North America in 1908, this scale has been detected on various holiday decorations. It specifically targets coniferous trees like Fraser fir and balsam fir, commonly used for Christmas celebrations.

"Protecting our native forests and local growers is crucial," says Werner. "We've implemented a quarantine for the elongate hemlock scale, but public vigilance remains vital."

Identifying the scale involves checking the undersides of branches for fish-scale-like formations. Males have white scales, while females have brown scales and visible yellow eggs underneath. Crawlers, the mobile form of these insects, pose the greatest threat as they can easily spread to other trees.

To minimize risk and support local agriculture, consumers are encouraged to buy Christmas trees and greenery from Wisconsin growers. This ensures high-quality products, contributes to a sustainable environment, and avoids the potential introduction of invasive pests. A list of cut-your-own and retail lots can be found at https://www.christmastrees-wi.org/map/.

"Choosing locally grown options allows you to celebrate the holidays while protecting Wisconsin's natural habitat," says Werner.

By making informed choices and supporting local businesses, we can all contribute to a safe and festive holiday season for both humans and the environment.


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