The perfect real Christmas tree is tall and full, with a point that prominently displays the star or angel at the top. It’s decorated with twinkling lights and ornaments that your family has collected over the years. It’s also (potentially) filled with up to 25,000 pests!
Like many people, you might prefer real evergreen trees over their artificial counterparts because of the lovely smell and incomparable look they give your home. Before you and your family take a trip to the nearest Christmas tree farm, however, make sure that you know how to avoid and solve any pesky bug problem your tree may bring. Keep reading for our experts’ helpful tips.
What kind of bugs live in a real Christmas tree?
A real tree is likely going to have some bugs on it, simply because it is a part of nature. Several types of insects “hibernate” in fir trees during the winter, and others lay their eggs to be hatched in the spring. When you cut down the tree and bring it into the warmth and light of your home, any hibernating insects and insect eggs on the tree are tricked into thinking that spring has arrived—causing them to “wake up” or hatch.
These insects include:
Cinara aphids, the most common type, are small and brown or black, with six legs. They are often mistaken for spiders or ticks. Aphids are not dangerous to people or animals, and they won’t eat your houseplants. Make sure not to squish them because they will leave a purple or red stain!
Spider eggs may contain hundreds of tiny spiders. While not all spiders are dangerous, they may leave the tree to make webs and trap food throughout your house.
Ticks are not normally found on Christmas trees; however, health officials have warned in the past several years that there is an increased risk for ticks because of warm weather. Ticks have round brown or black bodies and eight legs. They are sometimes mistaken for spiders.
Tiny red or brown mites may feed on the tree and cause the needles to drop. They may also cause red stains on carpets and furniture.
Praying mantis eggs can hatch hundreds of insects, which may then leave the tree to search your home for food.
Other insects found on Christmas trees include sawflies, bark lice, bark beetles, moths, and scale insects.
How to prevent an infestation.
Whether or not they are harmless, you don’t want to spend the Christmas season combating a swarm of bugs. Before taking a real tree home, check the trunk and boughs (including the undersides) for live insects, egg casings, and cocoons. The egg casing of spiders will be small and white, while the egg casings of praying mantises will be tan and walnut-sized. Also check the tree for bird’s nests, which can be a source of mites and parasites. If the tree you are considering seems heavily infested, reject it immediately.
After purchase, make sure that the tree is shaken vigorously: this will dislodge many of the bugs. Many Christmas tree farms now use mechanical shakers to get rid of loose needles and bugs. Don’t let the tree touch the ground after it’s been shaken: that will give the bugs a chance to get back on the tree. You may also want to rinse the tree with water, which will wash away some of the bugs, and let it dry outside.
What to do if you find pests in your tree.
After several days to weeks inside your home, an infested tree will be home to hundreds of newly hatched or active bugs. If some time has passed and you notice a sharp increase in the number of bugs or spiderwebs inside your home, it’s possible that the tree is the culprit.
Fortunately, almost all of the bugs found in Christmas trees are harmless to humans, pets, and household furnishings. Most Christmas tree-related pest problems can be solved by vacuuming up bugs that make it off the tree. (Again, try not to squish the bugs: they will stain or leave behind an unpleasant odor.) The insects won’t find enough food in a cut Christmas tree or in your home to survive, so they should die shortly from starvation or desiccation (drying out).
If the tree is badly infested, we recommend removing it from your home and taking it back to the Christmas tree farm. The farm should replace it with a healthy tree.
Concerned that a pest problem has gotten out of hand? Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.