Oregonians who bought their Christmas trees at a big box store should give them a close look and carefully dispose of them to avoid introducing a tree-attacking insect to Oregon forests, state officials warned Friday.

The elongate hemlock scale, a tiny non-native insect, rode into the state this fall on Fraser fir trees harvested in North Carolina, said Invasive Species Specialist Wyatt Williams with the Oregon Department of Forestry. State agriculture officials found the pest and ordered the infested trees to be destroyed, but some shipments had already been distributed to large chain stores around the West Coast. The insects are less than 2 millimeters long.

Williams warned Friday that the insect could hurt Oregon’s timber economy if the pest becomes established in the state.

So Williams advised anyone who bought a out-of-state Fraser fir from a big box store to take a close look at their Christmas tree. The insects feed on the underside of needles, making a yellowish-brown waxy layer. When bunched together scales might give the bottom of needles a white appearance, according to researchers at Pennsylvania State University. The pests cause trees to lose needles and become more susceptible to other life-threatening pests.

Read the full story at the Register-Guard.