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Keep Your Christmas Tree Free of Bugs

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Check your Christmas tree for mantid egg cases. Your home's warmth may cause them to hatch!

Check your Christmas tree for mantid egg cases. Your home's warmth may cause them to hatch!

Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

There's nothing like the smell of evergreen needles to get you in the holiday spirit. But when you bring a live or cut Christmas tree indoors, some of the insects that call your Christmas tree home might be joining you for the holiday season. Here's what you need to know about Christmas tree insects.

What Damage Can Christmas Tree Insects Do In My Home?

You really don't need to worry about bringing any dangerous or destructive pests inside with your Christmas tree. The hitchhiking insects make their homes in coniferous forests. Your home isn't appropriate habitat for these insects, and they aren't going to move in for good. Lacking food and adequate humidity to survive, most Christmas tree insects die soon after moving indoors.

Insects that Live in Christmas Trees:

Coniferous trees attract a variety of small insects that may only be visible in large numbers. Aphids are common pests of evergreen trees, and the warm conditions of your home may cause overwintering aphid eggs to hatch. Some conifers host adelgids, which produce cottony secretions over their bodies. Your Christmas tree may look quite festive, since the adelgids resemble a dusting of snow. Mites and scale insects also inhabit Christmas trees.

Larger Christmas tree insects include bark beetles and praying mantids. Adult mantids will be long gone from the cold temperatures, but mantid egg cases can hatch when introduced to the warmth of your home. If that happens, you'll have hundreds of tiny mantids wandering in search of food. Christmas trees often harbor spiders, too.

Before You Bring Your Christmas Tree Indoors, Check for Insects:

Harmless or not, you probably don't want to spend the holiday season with bugs crawling around among the presents or flying into your windows trying to escape. There are a few easy things you can do to minimize the chance of Christmas tree insects wandering around your living room.

When choosing a tree, inspect it carefully. Look for signs of aphids, adelgids, or other small insects. Be sure to examine the undersides of branches. Look at the trunk, too – small holes with sawdust trails are a sign of bark beetles. Reject any tree that seems heavily infested with insect pests.

Before bringing the Christmas tree in the house, shake it vigorously to dislodge insects and spiders. Check each branch for egg cases, and prune out any you find. Remember, your warm home will feel like spring and induce eggs to hatch. Remove any bird nests, as these can contain mites.

What to Do With the Christmas Tree Insects That Made It Indoors:

Whatever you do, do not spray aerosol pesticides on your Christmas tree. These products are flammable! There is no reason to use pesticides if your Christmas tree still has some insects in it. Insects require humidity to live, and most will desiccate and die within a matter of days. Additionally, they will be unable to survive without food. It is much safer, and better for your health, to simply vacuum up any dead insects you find.

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