Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year and dealing with pests during this period of celebration can put a damper on the festive season for your family. As Christmas trees sit on the lot waiting to be brought home to a good family, they do endure the outdoors and the pests that come along with it. These pests can infest the Christmas trees and then your home as you bring the tree indoors. Keep reading to find out more about the different types of pests that might be lurking in your new Christmas tree and how you can prevent these pests from invading your home.
Because the adelgids preferred food source is tree sap, these very small insects will attach to trees, including Christmas trees, to suck the sap out of them. These pests will leave behind cottony wax filaments across the stem and branches of the tree and will not fall or remove themselves from the tree without some type of force. Ironically, the wax filaments they leave on the tree can end up looking like a dust of snow, which might attract some tree buyers who are in search of a more festive Christmas tree. These sedentary pests can usually be found clustered together in strange patterns across the tree, but fortunately, they are ultimately harmless and do not pose a threat to you or your family.
Aphids are a very common plant pest and many people who garden know that these insects are highly motivated to do damage to plants and trees. The majority of aphids are tiny in size, unnoticeable and inactive. However, there are some types of aphids that can become large enough to be seen with the naked human and that can do some real damage to your trees and plants. The type of aphid that will usually infest Christmas trees are only able to survive on these particular types of trees. This is good news for the rest of the plants and trees around your home, as aphids will not try to infest them if you do accidentally bring them home along with your Christmas tree. Like adelgids, the types of aphids found in Christmas trees rely on the sap of these trees as their primary food source. Aphids are a few millimeters long and resemble ticks, but have six legs instead of eight. These Christmas tree pests are usually black or brown In color, but can sometimes appear red or green. Some aphids will also develop wings.
- Bark Beetles
Bark beetles earned their name due to their affinity for perforating tree bark which leaves tiny holes in branches and the tree trunk, as well as sawdust scraps around the bottom of the tree. Bark beetles differ from woodworms, which cause symptoms similar to these, because they will not try to drill holes into the furniture in your home. This is because bark beetles prefer moisture and humidity in the wood they eat and furniture is generally made of dry wood. This is more good news for homeowners in the case that a Christmas tree with bark beetles is accidentally brought into the home. Bark beetles also prefer to dine on wood that is stressed, meaning it is possible or even likely that the tree was infested with these beetles before it was harvested. Because bark beetles are as small as a grain of rice and are red, brown or black in color, you might never notice them on the tree or in your home.
Many trees outdoors are host to different types of mites, and this does not exclude the Christmas tree you might bring home to your family. These tiny bugs will become most active when they are introduced to warmer temperatures, like those inside of your home. However, even when these mites become active, they will usually stay on the tree, looking for and preying on the eggs of insects. Mites generally do not pose a threat to humans or your pets.
- Praying Mantis
If your Christmas tree is infested with praying mantises, it is most likely that you will find their egg masses on the branches of the tree. These egg masses are large in size and brown in color. This is because praying mantis eggs will overwinter on the branches and if not removed, they will hatch and the newborn praying mantises will crawl around the tree in search of food. These baby insects will likely eat any other bugs that might be infesting the Christmas tree, and if there are no bugs for them to feed on, they will even eat each other. It is possible, although rare, that in some part of the United States, you will even find full grown praying mantises within the branches of the Christmas tree. If you do find praying mantis egg masses on your new Christmas tree, remove the branches on which they are attached and take them outside to prevent the eggs from hatching in your home.
- Psocids or Bark Lice
Psocids, also known as bark lice or booklice, are tiny insects with wings that eat any fungus, mold, pollen or dead insects that are present on trees. These pests will often die if they are exposed to dry air, like the air that is inside of most homes, as they thrive in humid environments. Psocids are usually gray or brown and although their name might suggest they are similar to the lice that feed on humans, these pests do not bite humans or pets.
You may already deal with spiders creeping around your home, but these arachnids are also common in the branches of Christmas trees. Spiders generally hang out in Christmas trees because there is usually an abundance of insects for them to eat. If the spiders inside of your Christmas tree make a break for it and take up shop in other areas of your home, they might decide to make webs and continue catching insects and other prey. However, because these spiders are used to living outdoors in forested areas, they may not survive inside of your home.
- Pine Needle Scale
Pine needle scale will most likely show up on your Christmas tree as white specs on the tree’s needles. These specs are the egg sacs of the pine needle scale and if your tree is infested with these egg sacs, the host needles will usually fall off of the tree early. If the egg sacs hatch, small red bugs will emerge.
9. Spotted Lanterfly
Spotted lantern flies are extremely invasive pests that were discovered only five years ago in 2014. Since their discovery, the spotted lantern fly has expanded their presence to thirteen counties within the United States. Because they are so invasive, there are quarantines in place to keep these pests from spreading. If you find crusty grey smears on the branches and trunk of your newly purchased Christmas tree, these could be spotted lantern fly egg masses. To get rid of these egg masses, scrape them off of the tree into a plastic bag containing rubbing alcohol and dispose of the bag.
10. Bird’s Nests
Although a bird’s nest is not technically a type of pest, these nests are a good indicator that there might be mites and other insects contaminating your Christmas tree. Bird’s nest are host to various types of pests and if you bring a Christmas tree into your home with a bird nest in tow, you run the risk of these pests infesting your home as well.
The first line of defense against Christmas tree pests is inspecting the tree while it is still in the tree lot. If you notice that the tree contains any of the above insects, egg masses or bird’s nests, try to find a different tree without any signs of these pests.
How to Remove Pests from Christmas Trees
As mentioned, the first step in avoiding Christmas tree pests is prevention. It is always a good idea to look over the branches, needles and trunk of a Christmas tree before making your purchase. However, if you do end up bringing home a tree that is infested with pests, there are ways you can get rid of them. Read below to learn how to make your Christmas tree and celebration pest free this year.
- Let The Christmas Tree Sit In Your Garage Before Bringing It Indoors
After you have picked out the perfect Christmas tree for you and your family, harvested the tree and loaded it on your car to be brought home, make sure to leave it sitting in your garage for a period of two or more days. This will allow any pests to either leave the tree or perish due to a lack of food.
2. Shake Your Christmas Tree
After your Christmas tree has been sitting in your garage for a few days, come back to the tree and shake it vigorously, but not so vigorously that you break any branches. The act of shaking the tree will allow any bug corpses or even remaining live pests to fall off of the branches, needles or trunk.
3. Clean Up Your Garage
Once the Christmas tree has been shaken to remove any pests or bug corpses, sweep up or vacuum the area around the tree in your garage.
How To Keep Pests Out of Your Christmas Tree and Outside of Your Home
Real Christmas Trees
- Inspect the bottom of the Christmas tree, as well as the top for bugs such as roaches, spiders or aphids before bringing the tree inside of your home.
- Check the Christmas tree for spider webs, as the presence of these webs could mean that there are spiders lurking within its branches.
- Crank up the thermostat in your home. The pests that live on real Christmas trees thrive in outdoor environments where the air is cool and moist. A warm, dry climate in your home will help to rid your tree of any bugs.
- Although it is important to keep bugs out of your Christmas tree, do not spray the tree with any type of bug spray, as these sprays can be flammable, as well as toxic to your family or pets.
Artificial Christmas Trees
Because artificial Christmas trees are generally stored in areas where pests are known to run amok, including basements, crawlspaces or attics, it is not uncommon for these trees to also be infested with bugs and their eggs. To prevent insects from invading your artificial Christmas tree during the eleven months out of the year that you are not using it, follow the tips below.
- Store your artificial Christmas tree in a storage container that is able to fully close. You can also store the tree in a Christmas tree bag that zips up tightly. Storing your tree in a cardboard box will not keep pests out, so make sure the container you use is made of plastic or some other impenetrable material.
- After you remove your tree from its storage container, but before you set it up in your home, take the tree outside and shake it to get rid of any pests or pest carcasses that might be hiding in the tree.
- Vacuum or sweep off the branches of the tree before displaying it in your home. This will not only get rid of bugs, but will also remove any dust that might have accumulated on the tree during storage.
If you do find pests in your tree or your home that have come from your Christmas tree, there is good news for you. These pests generally will not cause harm to you and your family, unless an allergy is present. Additionally, the environment in your home is much different than that of a coniferous forest where these bugs will naturally live, so their survival rate indoors is low.
We hope that you and your family find the perfect, pest-free Christmas tree to display in your home this year! Merry Christmas to you and yours from the Natran Green Pest Control team!