HOW TO GET RID OF COMMON CHRISTMAS TREE BUGS
There’s nothing quite like picking out a freshly cut Christmas tree to celebrate the holiday season. But with that tree can come a lot of nasty little bugs just waiting to enjoy the comfort of your cozy home.
You’ll want to do everything you can to make sure you get a tree that’s as bug-free as possible, so you can keep it from hanging around your home beyond December. But exactly what kind of bugs are you looking for? And how can you get rid of these pests? Below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Christmas tree bugs, where they like to hang out, and how to get rid of them safely.
What are the most common Christmas tree bugs?
There are a few different types of bugs that could be living in your Christmas tree, says Chad Gore, Ph.D., an entomologist and market technical director with Ehrlich Pest Control. Here are the most common ones to keep on your radar:
These little critters love to suck sap from your tree. They look similar to ticks , but they have six legs and are typically a few millimeters long. Aphids are often black or brown (but can also be red or green) and some may develop wings.
These insects are tiny and the layer of wool-like wax they produce can look like a small dusting of snow on your tree (usually around the buds, candles or needle bases of Christmas trees). The insects underneath may be yellow or purple in color.
The eggs of these scale insects look like small white spots on the needles of your tree, almost as if it has white paint spots. These infested needles often fall off early. When they hatch, small red beetles are produced.
Spiders are predatory feeders, so they try to feed on the insects that live on the tree, Gore says. Also, worth noting: if you see a bird’s nest in a tree that interests you, choose another. They may contain mites and other parasites.
These beetles are about the size of a grain of rice and have red, brown or black coloring. They like to feed on stressed trees, so it is possible that they colonized before the tree was harvested. Bark beetles prefer moist wood, so do not pose a threat to structures in your home, such as furniture.
These small winged insects, also called bark lice or book lice, like to eat mold or fungus that may be on your tree. They are usually brown or gray in color and die quickly in homes due to low humidity. Despite their name, they are not typical aphids and do not bite or feed on humans.
In some areas of the country, you might also see praying mantises in your tree, Gore says. You may even find their egg cases on the branches, which are large and brown. In that case, take that part of the branch outside so it doesn’t hatch inside.
Where do beetles prefer to hang out in Christmas trees?
It depends on the bug. Scale and aphids are sap-feeding insects found on the trunk, limbs and woody parts of the tree. This is also where bark beetles and psocids are found, Gore says.
Adelgids are more likely to be found on the branches or green parts of the tree, and they can lay white and sac-like eggs, with thin webbing around them, Gore says, adding that they can be found very easily against the green of the branches.
As for spiders, they’ll show up anywhere in your tree. They might hide on the trunk or in the branches of the tree, Gore says.
Do you have to worry if you find bugs in your Christmas tree?
Although it’s gross and not ideal, these bugs usually won’t harm you. No need to panic if you find a pest on your Christmas tree, Gore says. Most of these bugs prefer to eat plants, so they won’t bother you much. Although it’s unusual, some spiders can bite, Gore warns, so it’s not a bad idea to wear gloves when handling your tree and setting it up indoors.
In some cases, if there is an egg mass on a tree, bringing it into a warm room can speed development and hatching. That could cause concern if hundreds of tiny insects suddenly appear around your tree, Gore says. However, these cases are rare.
How to safely get rid of Christmas tree bugs.
The best way is to use your vacuum cleaner. Simply vacuum up the pest and then empty the canister or remove the vacuum bag, Gore says. Place the contents in a larger trash bag, seal the trash bag and take it to an outdoor trash can or garbage can.
Do not use an OTC insecticide on or around your Christmas tree.
You definitely do not want to use an OTC insecticide on or near your Christmas tree. Many can be flammable and the heat from the Christmas tree lights could be enough to cause a problem, Gore warns.
Some sources recommend treating the tree with diatomaceous earth, a powder that kills insects by drying them out. It would certainly kill insects that came in contact with it and were exposed to enough of it, Gore says, but it doesn’t work very quickly. He also adds that the average homeowner may over-apply the product, resulting in unnecessary exposure to householders. If you have pets that like to mess with a tree, you don’t want them getting it on or in when they pick it up.
If you think the infestation is too large to handle on your own, simply remove the tree from your home – it’s best to just get a new one or artificially plant one.
Here’s how to prevent Christmas tree beetles
Gore recommends the following steps when buying a tree:
Examine the tree. It’s never a bad idea to bring a bright flashlight when choosing your tree, Gore says. Shine the light on the tree trunk in several places and look for insects or eggs. If you see them, try another tree.
Shake your tree. Many places have a mechanical tree shaker that can be used, but if one isn’t available, Gore recommends giving your tree a good shake or two before putting it in your car or house.
Double check. Just to be sure before you take the tree into your home.
Again, if you happen to spot a bug or two in your tree, don’t panic. But a few preventative measures can go a long way toward keeping pests out of your place.