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How To Protect The Environment When Disposing Christmas Trees And Wreaths

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It can be tough to see with the naked eye, but a tiny insect is causing huge concerns, and causing fears among Minnesota foresters and Christmas tree growers.

"We know a lot about the insect and what it feeds on," University of Minnesota extension specialist Matt Russell said.

The insect he's referring to is called the Elongate Hemlock Scale. It feeds on hemlock, spruce and fir needles -- eventually killing the tree.

For the second year in a row, the insect was found infesting trees and wreaths shipped to Minnesota retailers from growers in North Carolina. In a number of eastern states, the scale infestations have devastated conifer forests and tree farms.

"It's been a problem for Christmas tree growers in the eastern states, so our concern is for Christmas tree growers here, that's number one," said Mark Abrahamson, director of the plant protection division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Abrahamson says that while the scale hasn't been identified in the state's forests or farms, the potential for harm would be devastating. That's why the department has a program called "Arrest the Pest," to help educate citizens in hopes of preventing a wider spread.

It's crucial that holiday greenery is disposed properly and not simply tossed out in the woods or backyard. Instead, your used Christmas trees and wreaths should be picked up by your garbage hauler or sent to a county compost site.

One final option, if local ordinances allow, is to burn the greenery to destroy it completely.

"What we don't want is to be left out in the environment for those insects to emerge," Abrahamson said.

Your future holiday greenery may very well depend on it.

Click here for more information on Elongate Hemlock Scale.

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