MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An invasive insect has been found for the first time in Minnesota, and it may be nestled in your holiday evergreen decorations.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture found elongate hemlock scale or EHS on wreaths and garland. The items originated in North Carolina. Experts say there is a way to dispose of items to stop the spread.

Wreaths, boughs and live decorations are on doors and inside homes this time of year.

“It’s just the Christmas spirit basically,” Rich Erickson said.

But the Department of Agriculture warns the decorations may also have an unfriendly invasive insect living on them known as EHS.

“It’s a small insect and it attaches itself to the underside of coniferous or pine needles and then it sucks the nutrients out of the needle,” said Allen Sommerfeld, with the Department of Agriculture.

Needles may turn yellow and fall out prematurely. The presence of the insect shows up as brown marks.

“They secrete this kind of waxy substance and that’s what you’re seeing on the underside of pine needles,” Sommerfeld said.

Officials in Wisconsin warned of the problem earlier this week. Then insects were found in Minnesota on items sold at Menards and Home Depot stores in the Twin Cities metro but may have been sold at other stores also. They came from North Carolina.

“I think it’s terrible. I’m going to check that label very close to see where it came from and if that’s the case it’s coming down today,” Erickson said.

Erickson checked and his wreath was grown in Minnesota. As a precaution, the Department of Agriculture said people should bag or burn any live evergreen decorations not grown here.

“The concern is somebody would compost it or simply discard it in some other way and then these insects would then get out into nature and attack your trees in your yard,” Sommerfeld said.

The easiest way to dispose of an item is to put it in a plastic bag, tie it up and throw it in with your trash. The insect has not been found on any Christmas trees in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Jennifer Mayerle