SALT LAKE CITY — Have you seen something — other than the cat — crawling in the Christmas tree?
If so, officials with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food wants you to contact them.
In an advisory issued Wednesday, the department said that with the majority of Utah’s live Christmas trees coming from outside the state — the Pacific Northwest, Wisconsin and as far away as North Carolina — the gypsy moth and pine shoot beetle, as well as other invasive insects could have tagged along for the ride.
“Most people don’t think about pathways for invasive species. They see a beautiful Christmas tree and or piece of wood furniture and don’t realize it could be a carrier for an unwelcome insect,” Kris Watson, state entomologist and insect program manager with the department, said in a statement.
While many insects are beneficial, those on department’s invasive species watch list are not.
Watson, who oversees the agencies’ inspection and regulatory efforts for invasive species, including enforcement of Christmas tree regulations, said that while there has only been one gypsy moth found in Utah in the last few years and no pine shoot beetles, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
“As much as we don’t like taking regulatory action against Christmas tree vendors, it's far less burdensome than the millions it would cost taxpayers to eradicate an unchecked invasive pest,” Watson said.Comment on this story
As an example, he said that between the 2006 and 2014, the state spent more than a million dollars eradicating Japanese beetles from Utah County, as well as large expensive eradication programs along the Wasatch Front for gypsy moths in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Watson says while most Christmas tree vendors have been compliant with sourcing documentation for trees, the issue is one the entire public can help with.
Consumers are urged to inspect Christmas trees for pests prior to purchase; watch for and collect any unusual insects that may emerge from a tree; and contact the department with questions or concerns.
If any pests are found, contact the department at 801-538-7100.