With Christmas around the corner, many will be getting ready to pick out and purchase a real Christmas tree. It’s a momentous part of the Christmas tradition for millions of Americans each year. The evergreen smell and real-feel of outdoors brings an authentic holiday feeling to the home.
A real Christmas tree brings the splendid outdoors into your home—literally. Along with your beautiful Christmas tree, you will no doubt be bringing along its little tenants. Yes, each evergreen tree can be the home to almost 25,000 insects at the time it is cut down. No doubt many of them will be still on your tree when you bring it home.
‘Tis The Season… For Bugs?
Firstly, there’s no need to panic or freak out. Most of the tiny insects, mites, spiders, and Gypsy moths that live on Christmas trees are harmless to humans. Many of them are in a slumbering state during the winter but, once brought into your warm home environment, they will feel the change in temperature and think it is springtime.
That does mean many can become active again, however, as most will die off due to dehydration and starvation. The dryness of the indoors is not healthy for most of them (as it is not part of their natural environment) and they will lack their natural food supply. It’s not likely you’ll have an infestation. Let’s take a minute to meet the little guys and learn a bit more about them.
Christmas Tree Bugs – From Adelgids To Arachnids
Pine bark adelgids are tiny, aphid-like, sucking insects that secrete cottony wax filaments over their bodies. They create a ‘white dusting’ appearance on the trees. They don’t leave the tree and are harmless. They tend to appear on fir trees, Scotch Pines, Norway spruces, and White Pines.
Aphids are mostly found at the bottom of the tree and are specific to their host and not a risk to other types of plants in your home. They are commonly mistaken for spiders or ticks but only have 6 legs while spiders have 8.
They are mainly inactive and tiny, but there is a chance that they may produce offspring (some winged) if the tree is kept in the home for a long period of time. Note that they can cause a purple or red stain on furniture if you squash them.
3. Bark Beetles
The bark beetles are hard-bodied, brownish black in color and about the size of a grain of rice. If you find small holes in the tree trunk or branches they may be overwintering in the tree. They don’t pose a threat to other wood furnishing or parts of your home. They tend to inhabit juniper, White fir, ponderosa, Monterey, and Jeffrey Pines.
Many species of predatory mites live on evergreens, such as Douglas fir, White Pines, spruce trees, and Fraser firs. They become active when exposed to warm temperatures in the home but mainly stay on the tree where they may prey on insect and mite eggs.
Most of the tiny, lighter-colored mites will be unnoticeable but a larger red version can cause red stains on the carpet if you squash them. Other than that, they don’t pose a threat to animals or humans.
5. Praying Mantis
We know what a praying mantis looks like but your Christmas tree won’t have any full adults crawling over them. Their eggs, however, can be in any type of tree. Look out for a light tan colored walnut-sized egg mass. It’s best to look out for these critters before you bring indoors as they are easier to spot.
They will hatch in warm temperatures, which should be avoided. The best thing to do is remove the small twig and needles onto which the egg mass is attached and put it back outdoors and onto another evergreen tree or shrub.
6. Pine Needle Scale
These insects would be found in the egg stage on a tree, specifically the Douglas fir, Norway spruce, and Scotch pine. Pine needle scales appear on needles as white spots but when hatched, these red crawlers appear as tiny moving red specks. They will leave red spots if you squash them. They are not harmful to humans.
Sawfly adults are small wasps, reddish-brown to black, 6–9 mm long, with slender antennae. Their larvae resemble caterpillars. Typically, they lay brown cocoons on spruce and pine trees which can hatch in warm environments.
The spiders on Christmas trees aren’t a threat to people or pets since they will likely stay on the tree unnoticed. If they wander off they’ll do the usual spider thing and leave small webs on the walls and ceiling. They will likely die quickly as they are not the indoor species.
Prepping Your Christmas Tree
You might ask if there a better type of Christmas tree to buy? Essentially, all evergreen trees have insects, so you really can’t avoid them altogether. However, Norwegian pines are known for having the most bugs overall.
While shopping for your tree, keep in mind that quality Christmas tree farms and vendors do take precautionary measures to make sure their trees have a minimal number of pests and infestation. They often put them through a mechanical shaker and then spray the trees with specialized pesticide to eliminate insects on the tree.
- Carefully examine your Christmas tree before purchasing checking including the underside of branches for eggs or bugs. Avoid any with visible small holes or sawdust on the trunk (evidence of Bark beetles) or excessive insects. Any bird nests or egg cases should be removed and along with those branches and twigs.
- Let your tree stay at for at least 24–48hrs in the garage when you bring it home and give it a good shake to dislodge as many insects as you can.
- Take another look at the under branches for any eggs and prune those twigs if you find any.
- Do Not Spray aerosol pesticides on your Christmas tree. Bug sprays are flammable! Most of the insects will die indoors after a few days and it’s better to vacuum or sweep up if you find them under the tree.
- There are safe specialized treatments to treat Christmas tree insects. Contact your local pest control provider for help.
Remember To Enjoy Your Christmas Tree!
The Christmas tree is truly the crowning glory when it comes to decorating for the holidays. It brings so much splendor and festivity into the home. From picking out the tree with your family and bringing it home, to decorating it, enjoying its evergreen fragrance in the home—it should all be enjoyed.
Love your tree, keep it well-watered, and don’t let the itsy-bitsy pests bother you and ruin what is truly a genuine and beautiful part of Christmas tradition. By following the tips we’ve shared with you on prepping your tree, we’re sure you’ll be able to enjoy your Christmas tree without any pesky pest surprises.
Again, if you need any extra advice or assistance you just need to give one of our pest control partners a call. They’ll be happy to give you professional and caring advice about your tree to ensure everything is under control and clear for a happy holiday.