Alert in Wisconsin after invasive pests found in Christmas wreaths

Buyers have been advised to burn wreaths and boughs at risk from the pests.
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Authorities in Wisconsin say an invasive insect has been found on chain store-bought Christmas wreaths and boughs, and are advising people to burn them once the holiday season is over.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP_ inspectors found an insect called elongate hemlock scale on festive wreaths, swags, boughs, and arrangements of evergreens in hanging baskets, porch pots, mugs and sleighs.

The EHS, which is native to Asia, has been found at many stores that are part of major chains throughout the state of Wisconsin, which had all received supplies of evergreen materials from North Carolina.

"It’s fine to keep your decorations up for the holiday season, but when it’s time to dispose of them, don’t put them on the compost pile or set the greens out for brush collection. Burn them if you can. If you can’t do that, bag them and send them to the landfill," said. Brian Kuhn, director of the Plant Industry Bureau in the Wisconsin DATCP.

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"EHS has survived in the northeastern U.S., so winter weather will not kill it. As a result, if you compost this material, the insects may well attack conifers in your yard or neighborhood, and spread from there."

All the stores that have been selling the wreaths and boughs have already removed the items from their shelves, but not before many had been sold.

EHS insects feed on the underside of needles, and are hard to control with pesticides, partly because they are protected by their hard, waxy coverings.

Hemlock, spruces and firs are the more susceptible to EHS insects.

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