By: Austin Key, CPCO, VP of BugMaster
The stockings are hung and the fireplace is roaring — all that’s left is the tree. Having a real Christmas tree in your house this holiday season comes with a few thousand gifts under it: bugs. If you take a close look at your beautiful Douglas Fir or Scotch Pine, you can find almost 25,000 bugs living within its branches. Take something out of nature, and nature comes with it.
One or more of the following bugs may find its way into your home and make your tree their new holiday dwelling:
Adelgids — Often mistaken for spiders, these Cinara aphids are harmless and do not produce webs. However, their frequent “flocking” can cause concern. Adelgids resemble a dusting of snow on your tree branches, but don’t confuse them for a little wintery decoration.
Bark Beetles — Burrowed into the trunk of your Christmas tree, these beetles create tiny holes and a small amount of sawdust. However, they are not a danger to your furniture or the structure of your house, as these wood materials are too dry for them to survive.
Predatory & Bird Mites — Relatives of chiggers, these pests are either tiny and unnoticeable or bigger and red in color. Mites usually go unnoticed and are not a threat to adults or animals.
Praying Mantids — Remove tan, nut-sized egg clusters from your tree before taking it inside because mantid egg cases can hatch when introduced to the warmth of your home. If this happens, you’ll have hundreds of tiny mantids wandering in search of your cookies for Santa Claus.
Barklice — These small, winged, soft-bodied insects are colored gray or brown and feed on fungus, mold, pollen, and dead insects. However, barklice usually die in an indoor setting.
Scale Insects — You may have seen these tiny, slowly-moving red insects in or around your tree. After feeding, scale insects excrete small amounts of clear, sticky liquid known as honeydew that can be cleaned with soap and water.
Spiders — Spiders on your Christmas tree are not dangerous to people or pets. However, if they wander off into your home, they may weave small webs on walls, ceilings, or furniture, but they will usually die quickly.
Don’t want these pests in your home and drinking your family’s eggnog? Here’s how to prevent inviting these holiday “party-crashers” into your home:
- Before bringing your tree inside, check for insects that may be hiding in its branches. Look at the trunk as well as the underside of branches and needles.
- Physically shake the tree vigorously to loosen any pests of insects. Mechanical tree shakers, available at some retail lots, are also useful in removing some insects from the trees.
- Remove any bird nests from your tree’s branches.
- DO NOT spray aerosol pesticides on your Christmas tree. These are flammable chemicals and will create a dangerous fire hazard, especially if your tree stands next to your fireplace.
“‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” If you have a real Christmas tree, this may not be true! We too love the smell of a real tree, but we should all take precautions to avoid welcoming unwanted holiday guests into our cozy homes this year. For a more hygienic, happier, and healthier holiday season, simply vacuum away any dead insects you find. Or, save yourself a ton of hassle and get a fake tree.