PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – An invasive insect known to attack conifer trees was discovered on out-of-state Christmas tree products that were shipped to big box stores in Oregon. 

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said its staff found the elongate hemlock scale insect pest while performing routine inspections on Christmas trees that had arrived at big box stores throughout the state. 

The insects were found on Frasier fir Christmas trees, wreaths, and Christmas arrangements. In each incident, the products had originated from out of state. 

ODA ordered the stores to immediately pull the products from their shelves and to destroy them or send the infested items back. 

The elongate hemlock scale insect is not established in Oregon, but has the potential to cause serious damage to the state’s valuable Christmast tree industry. Oregon is the nation’s largest producer of Christmas trees and these insects feed on the undersides of needles, draining the fluid trees need to grow. 

The damage can cause a yellow-brown film on needles and can cause them to drop from the tree. 

The insect has the potential to attack native Oregon species like western hemlock, mountain hemlock, and Douglas fir trees. 

The elongate hemlock scale insect spends most of its life in an immature state, only 1.5 mm long, fixed under a brownish-white waxy layer on the underside of the needles where it feeds, ODA said. 

Anyone who believes they purchased Christmas tree items that contain elongate hemlock scale should report the purchase to the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline immediately. ODA requests people include a photograph with their online submission. 

The Oregon Department of Forestry has more information online about how to properly dispose of infested wreaths and trees. 

Officials said Oregonians can avoid the risk of “packing a pest” by buying locally produced products. ODA said similar products were found infested with the invasive insect in Washington state and were rejected by agricultural officials.