This Holiday: Decorate with Joy, Not Insects That Destroy

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Posted by Cecilia Sequeira, USDA Public Affairs Specialist in Animals

Dec 14, 2021

Adobe Stock image by Pink Coffee studio depicts a person holding a holiday package wrapped with holly. Other decorations are neatly stacked around the package, including pine branches, cones, twine, berries and sugar canes

The holidays are a festive time. Putting up a Christmas tree, wreath, and ornaments may be part of your tradition. But, look twice before you acquire fresh plant material for your seasonal décor this year, because there may be something lurking inside. Invasive plant pests and diseases are talented hitchhikers. They may hitch a ride on your living Christmas tree, wreath, untreated firewood, or handmade ornaments. And, they aren’t just unwelcome guests—these pests threaten local ecosystems and agriculture when introduced to new places.

Forests are at risk. If you move fresh plant material from a quarantine area, you could transport tree-killing insects without seeing them. Outdoor items can also harbor egg masses, which can look like dry mud or tan-colored fuzzy patches on surfaces. The culprit could be an invasive pest that feeds on and defoliates hundreds of plant species.

The good news is you can help prevent their spread:

  1. Before buying holiday greenery, inspect it for signs of infestation including insects, egg masses, tunneling or holes.
  2. Buy local or use certified heat-treated firewood, or gather it on site where permitted. Don’t move untreated firewood.
  3. Do not move plants, fruit, vegetables, or soil into your state or another state unless agricultural inspectors have cleared them.
  4. Check out APHIS’ interactive maps and pests tracker to familiarize yourself with quarantines in your area. Avoid moving quarantined materials.

Protect plants this holiday season. Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/pests-diseases/hungry-pests/hungrypests to learn more.

A graphic depiction of a fireplace adorned for the holidays next to firewood. Invasive pests are crawling out of the logs. The text on the graphic reads “don’t give hungry pests a free ride.”

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