Christmas Trees: A Pathway For Invasive Species

Dec 17, 2019

Oh, Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, please don’t infect Utah with these species. 

A common holiday tradition in the United States is setting up a Christmas tree. However, not all the trees people purchase for their homes are locally grown.

As the holiday season is approaching, it’s important to be vigilant with checking Christmas trees, and other imported outdoor products, for invasive insects such as gypsy moths and pine shoot beetles. Doing so can help prevent deforestation.

Christmas trees are one of the many pathways invasive insects can take to uninfected areas, according to Kristofer Watson from the Utah Department of Agriculture and food.  Watson said when inspecting trees, people aren’t looking for the insect itself, but evidence of it.

“We are actually looking for the egg masses so that later in the season we don’t find the moth. Its not really a favorable time of year for them," Warson said. " We are looking for more of their other life stages, eggs,  vines, other symptoms”

Watson said gypsy moths were last found in 2016. He said the insects can affect both the state’s environment and agriculture.

“Some of them have major impacts on the commodities themselves where it could impact the production and the harvest," Warson said. "It also has a potential impact on the ability to export a commodity. Some states with these pests, they have to go through additional inspections and protocols and may have to apply treatment to be able to ship outside of their state. That’s an additional cost to the farmer or grower.”

Invasive species can cause between 50-80 percent of agriculture crop loss per year.