If you are one of the millions of households who enjoy having a real, live Christmas tree to gather ‘round, you might be surprised to learn there’s a really good chance your first horde of holiday guests may come with it. There are over a half-dozen species of Christmas tree bugs that will have attached themselves to live Christmas trees.
And while these hitchhiking insects are usually not harmful, discovering the creepy crawlers while you are hanging holiday bulbs and lights can definitely hamper the Christmas cheer.
Fortunately, are a few easy ways to identify a bug-filled Christmas tree before you buy it, and methods to get rid of Christmas tree bugs who’ve already found their way into your holiday home, without the use of harsh pesticides or chemicals.
Here’s where to begin.
Creepy Christmas tree bugs
There are a several types of bugs that like to live in Christmas trees. While most are harmless, they can be very irritating. To stop them from making their way through your front door, here’s what to look for.
Aphids may look like ticks, but they have six legs and love to suck sap from your tree. These little bugs, generally only a few millimeters in length, are often brown or black, but can also be red or green. Some Aphids can grow wings if they stay indoors for an extended amount of time, but they will largely stay on the lower boughs of your tree until the needles dry out.
Adelgids are tiny yellow or purple insects that produce a wool-like wax that looks like snow on your tree. This wax collects around the buds or needle bases on your tree. Adelgids do not move and these Christmas tree bugs will happily stay on your tree for the entire holiday season.
Pine Needle Scale
If you see small, white specks on your tree’s needles, you may have resident scale insects. The white specks are the eggs of scale insects and should the eggs hatch, small red bugs will appear. Any infested needles will fall off your tree early.
You may think finding an abandoned bird’s nest in your tree is a fun discovery, but it is a red flag. Bird’s nests can contain mites and other parasites that you do not want to bring home. If you find a bird’s nest in a tree you are considering, buy a different tree.
Bark beetles are red, brown, or black bugs that are around the size of a grain of rice. Bark beetles feed on moist wood, meaning they will eat your Christmas tree but pose no threat to furniture or other structures in your home.
Psocids, also known as bark lice or booklice, are small winged insects that eat any mold or fungi on your tree. These brown or gray bugs will quickly die in low humidity environments.
When vacuuming under your Christmas tree, remove and replace the vacuum bag as soon as you are done. Chances are it may very well be filled with live Christmas tree bugs!
You know all those species of bugs we just talked about, well for Spiders, that’s called lunch! Spiders love nesting in trees where they’ll find an ample supply of their daily dietary needs. Be sure to look for nests and get rid of spiders before taking the tree home. Be cautious though and wear glove because some spiders bite!
4 Ways to avoid bringing Christmas tree bugs home
When head out for your Christmas tree shopping trip, be sure to bring a bright flashlight with you. Shine the light along the trunk to highlight any bugs or eggs. Then scan a few sections of needles for bugs or eggs as well. A few Christmas tree bugs is normal and they can be easily removed, but a heavily infested tree might be more trouble than it is worth.
Shake It Out
Even after you have inspected your tree for any creepy crawlers or bird’s nests, it is a good idea to give your tree a good shake. Thoroughly shaking a tree will encourage any bugs to “jump off” so you don’t bring them home with you. Christmas tree bugs are so common that some shops or stands actually Christmas “tree shaker” you can use before you tie off the tree to your car for the ride home. If not, you can easily shake the tree yourself before you bring it inside.
Don’t Use Pesticides
There are ways a professional exterminator can use pesticides to kill insects on your tree, but you do not want to use an over-the-counter insecticide to do the job yourself. Here’s why: many insecticides are flammable and when combined with hot holiday lights and dried out needles could lead to a disastrous fire!
One possible solution is to use Diatomaceous earth, a powder that kills insects by drying them out. However, it’s not a quick fix and over-using diatomaceous earth can result in exposing your family and pets to a product that is potentially harmful, especially when ingested.
Bottom line, pesticides of any type are not a good option to kill Christmas tree bugs.
The longer you keep your Christmas tree indoors, the more likely you are to find dead bugs under your tree. Many of the bugs that live on Christmas trees will run out of food once you bring your tree inside or they will be unable to cope with the change in humidity. The best solution is to vacuum up any dead bugs, along with the dried-out needles that will ultimately collect on a daily basis under your tree.
By the way, if you are vacuuming early in the season, remove and replace the vacuum bag as soon as you are done. Chances are it may very well be filled with live Christmas tree bugs!
Buying a live Christmas tree is cherished part of the holidays for many families. But before you bring the tree inside your house, inspect it to avoid buying a bug-filled tree and follow these steps to get rid of any Christmas tree bugs that make it past the front door.
Or, if the idea that ANY bugs might find their way into your holiday celebration totally freaks you out — you can always use this post to motivate your family to go with an artificial tree instead!