Wreathes, swags, boughs and other evergreen decorations are being removed from two major retail stores in Minnesota due to an invasive insect, and state residents are being urged by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to burn items, or bad and throw them away.

The state department said many of evergreen products that originated from North Carolina have been infected by an invasive and hazardous insect called EHS.

"Unless you know you purchased evergreen products from a locally grown source, residents should err on the side of caution and burn, or bag and throw away your evergreen items," Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Whitney Place said.

As of now, the MDA has discovered EHS at Home Depot and Menards locations and both companies have cooperated with inspectors to remove any remaining products off shelves.

Earlier in the week the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection issued a similar warning after they found EHS in several retail businesses.

The insect, originally from Asia, already has invaded 16 eastern states and is known to damage to more than 40 species of evergreens. The tiny creatures use a hairlike probe to suck nutrients out of each needle. Infested needles eventually turn brown and fall off.

Elongate hemlock scale operates on the underside of evergreen needles. They are hard to kill with pesticides, experts say, and the infestations weakens the tree making it vulnerable to other issues. Many of the infested trees perish.

Because the insect especially likes fir, spruce and hemlock it has the potential to damage the state's nursery industry as well as the state's vast forests and urban and suburban landscapes.

EHS has a complex life cycle with several growth stages. After hatching from eggs, "crawlers" begin feeding on the underside of needles and secrete a waxy brown cover around themselves as they grow, creating the "scale" that is visible. The crawlers may establish new infestations. Wind and birds may also disperse infestations to new trees.

The Duluth News Tribune contributed to this story.