We’re not talking Big Brother. We’re talking nature.
Because Christmas trees were once part of the environment, it means they can double as homes for several types of insects, many of which were dormant in the cold but will happily come to life in the warmth of your living room. The good news is that most of the bugs you might find won’t bite or carry disease – they’re more of an inconvenience than an actual health issue. (It’s like putting up with ants at a picnic.) However, depending on your tolerance for bugs, NOT what you want to find under your tree on Christmas morning!
The most common bugs you may encounter on your live tree are:
- Aphids – little brown and black bugs with six legs. They are typically found on the lower boughs of evergreen, pine, balsam fir, spruce, Fraser fir and white fir trees.
- Spiders and mites – Tiny red and brown bugs that are typically found on Douglas-fir, white pine, Fraser fir and spruce trees.
- Agelgids – produce little white masses – resembling the look of a dusting of snow on the tree – that suck sap from fir trees, white pine, Norway spruce and Scotch pine.
- Scale insects – Scales have a brown or red shell and feed off the sap in Scotch pine, Norway spruce and Douglas-fir trees.
- Bark beetles – dark brown bugs that burrow themselves in the trunks of Monterey pines, ponderosa, Coulter pines, Jeffery pine, white fir and juniper trees.
- Sawflies – The black and yellow flies can be found on spruce and pine trees.
- Praying mantis – The light tan egg sac, which holds up to 400 eggs, can be on any type of Christmas tree. Once they warm up inside your home, these eggs will hatch. If you see a walnut-sized mass on a limb, carefully remove it and take it outside.
Commercially grown Christmas trees are probably going to be pretty clean, but if you like to choose and cut your own tree, that’s when you may encounter a problem. To reduce your chances of getting a buggy tree, it’s a good idea to inspect it and shake it, before decorating and enjoying it. Begin by checking the tree at the lot before bringing it home. Once home, shake it outdoors and wash it with a hose if you are concerned about pollen or have allergies. Then put it in water in the garage and wait at least 24 hours before bringing it inside and decorating it. It is not recommended to spray trees with pesticides, as chemicals linger and flammable sprays don’t mix well with Christmas tree lights.
Once you have the tree, be sure to vacuum regularly around its base. This will keep pine needles off your floor, and will also snatch up any bugs that have decided to climb off the tree and go exploring. Then dispose of the vacuum bag or clean the canister afterwards.
Here’s more good news: The insects that live in pine trees need the plant to survive. Eventually, the pine tree will die, and so will they. That sounds a little grim, but it’s better than having a full-on infestation.
To ensure a bug-free Christmas in your home, call a pest control specialist. Don’t let crawly critters ruin your holiday buzz!