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Decorate with Joy, Not Insects That Destroy

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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.

Tree-killing insects

Forests are at risk. If you move fresh plant material from a quarantine area, you could transport tree-killing insects without seeing them. Hungry pests are invasive species that threaten to harm our crops and trees. Left unchecked, they can devastate entire agricultural industries, eliminating jobs, threatening our food supplies and costing billions.

It's up to each of us to be sure that we're not packing a pest when we move things outdoors, go camping, or travel internationally. Please do your part and be aware of any regulations and potential risks in your area. And if you see a pest, report it. 

Egg masses

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.

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