This year, for the first time, I’m going to chop down a Christmas tree. Okay well, I probably will just watch my husband do it. He alluded to the fact that I’ll have to get on the ground and saw… I don’t see that happening. But I’m really excited to go to a real tree farm and choose the perfect tree. (by the way…did you know we sell Christmas trees now? Go pick one out from the comfort of your home! No sawing necessary)
While daydreaming about this tree, it occurred to me. What might crawl out of my perfect tree? I mean, we are essentially going to a little forest and taking a tree away. There’s gotta be bugs in there.
Oh, there are bugs in there.
There are probably a couple bugs in everyone’s live Christmas tree, but most of the time they’ll just stay on their branches and mind their own business. However, a few types of insects overwinter on these trees, and once they’re inside in warm environment they get tricked into thinking it is spring and they’ll emerge. Most people say to just leave them be, since they’ll probably die in your home. Still, I don’t want any bugs in my house, and there are definitely some steps to take to avoid waking up to a tree-full of insects.
Although this subject has been covered on this blog a few years ago before I worked at Do My Own Pest Control, I think it is definitely worth revisiting. Let’s quickly look at what bugs might show up on your tree and what you can do about it.
Types Of Christmas Tree Pests
Christmas trees offer a protected place for many insects to wait out the cold and snowy winter, and most will stay on the tree rather than venture out into your home. Here is a brief list of what you might find on your tree:
- Adelgids: very small insects that secrete a cottony wax substance that looks like flocking on the tree. These insects will likely go completely unnoticed by you and will not venture from the tree.
- Aphids: a larger aphid species, the cinara aphid, is often found on Christmas trees, and are sometimes confused with ticks or spiders. Other aphids may also appear on your tree, and most are host specific, meaning that specific aphids show up on specific types of evergreen trees.
- Bark beetles: these are small, dark beetles that are often near the center of the tree. They bore into the tree and can produce sawdust. These will also not leave the tree.
- Mites, scale insects: very small insects that will likely go unnoticed and don’t cause any damage or leave the tree. Scale insects often look like very small red specks that move very slowly.
- Praying mantids: Including the large spectacular praying mantis, these insects often lay egg masses on evergreen trees. The egg masses are about walnut sized and a tan color, sometimes mistaken for a small pinecone. These egg masses can hatch once indoors, and your tree will be covered in baby mantids. This actually does happen! People often think laws protect praying mantis insects, but they’re not protected insects. You can kill these bugs without worry.
- Spiders: We’re all familiar with spiders. They’re rarely harmful, but always unwelcome inside.
Keep The Bugs Outside: How To Prevent and Control Christmas Tree Pests
Prevention, as always, is the best way to keep insects out of your home. Most tree lots will have a mechanical shaker that will loosen debris (including needles, bird nests, and other unwelcome items) and bugs. Inspect your tree carefully after you choose it, looking for egg masses and any other signs of insects. If you do find some egg masses, that’s okay; you can clip the affected twigs or branches off. If there seems to be a lot of insect activity on your chosen tree, it’s not a bad idea to keep looking!
As far as products go, an insecticidal soap, like Bonide Insecticidal Soap, would work great on aphids, adelgids, mites, and scale insects. Don’t treat your tree with anything unless you’ve noticed a large population of insects, and never treat your tree with anything that is flammable!
And keep in mind that not every tree will have bugs, and it is pretty rare to have a totally infested tree. A lot of insects will die due to the lack of food and less-than-ideal conditions of your home. You can take back a badly infested tree to where you bought it to see if they’ll let you exchange. Whatever you do, don’t let the insects ruin your holiday spirit!