The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.
Q: When I hiked in the Black Hills of South Dakota recently, I observed the many dying trees related to insect infestation. We take all these precautions when using firewood, but is there cause for concern with Christmas trees being shipped from various places around the nation? It seems like a possible way to spread pests and diseases.
A: You are right to be concerned. According to the lead nursery inspector at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), most of our imported Christmas trees are from Michigan and Wisconsin, along with Fraser fir from the Carolinas. Gypsy moth is the main concern on trees coming from those states, and regional inspectors visually check Christmas trees as they come into Minnesota in bulk. The Agriculture Department also conducts spot checks on tree sales lots. The focus of these inspections is proper certification under all applicable state and federal quarantines.
Mountain pine beetle is the insect responsible for killing pines in the Black Hills and in much of the western United States. This insect attacks trees that are 5 inches or more in diameter. Most Christmas trees you’ll find on sales lots are smaller than this. The MDA is considering regulations to prevent the importation of pine wood with bark on it from states where mountain pine beetle occurs. These regulations would be enforced through a state exterior quarantine tentatively scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
Finally, consider buying Christmas trees grown in Minnesota. That way, you can be sure you won’t be importing an unknown pest.
Val Cervenka, DNR forest health program coordinator