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There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter. One is January thaw. The other is the seed catalogue.” — Hal Borland

A new invasive insect has been discovered in the state.

Evergreen products shipped from North Carolina and Virginia have brought it here. These trees, wreaths and garlands were shipped to major chain stores. State inspectors are warning residents to burn all live evergreens after the holidays. Do not compost them or use for mulch since this will not kill the elongated hemlock scale.

The insect is native to Asia. It steals nutrients from conifers as they feed on the underside of needles on more than 40 conifer species. The pests secrete a waxy cover over themselves just as scale insects do. If you cannot burn your trees, bagging them is the next alternative. After bagging, send them to a landfill. For more information, visit

Have you ever wondered how cheddar cheese and other yellow cheeses get their color? There is a small, native tree in Central and South America that is used for both ornamental and commercial purposes. Its seeds contain a dye called annatto or achiote in Spanish. The waxy coating of the seeds has carotenoid pigments. People used this coating to make red body paint and lipstick.

It is also used to enrich the flavor of many dishes and an inexpensive substitute for saffron. Before synthetic dyes were available, it was used to color fabrics, paints, and food. The natural dye is an important food coloring for butter, cheese, margarine, bakery products, snacks and chorizo. It is recognized as food safe. Peru and Kenya are the major importers to the United States and Europe.

This plant can propagate by seed. It can be a conversation piece on the patio or deck but since it is tropical, it must be brought in during the winter. A few Midwest nurseries offer this species but seeds can be found online. Additional information can be found at

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.