‘Tis the season to deck the halls, and part of that hall decking inevitably involves a Christmas tree. Maybe you have an artificial one you can pull out of storage, but many people make the trek to tree farms or into the wild in search of a fresh tree.
Fresh Christmas trees have many features that fake ones don’t, like a pleasant smell, fuller branches, and one which is undesirable: bugs.
There are many types of insect that make their home in fresh cut Christmas greenery, but are they a threat to your home?
According to Safer Brand, an organic gardening and pest control company, there could be up to 25,000 bugs on one Christmas tree, including aphids, spiders, mites, adelgids, sawflies, bark beetles and even praying mantises.
This might sound alarming at first, but even if you are introducing a whole insect ecosystem into your home as the centerpiece of your holiday revelries, you need not fear, according to Rayanne D. Lehman and James F. Stimmel, in an article for the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.
They call such fears unwarranted, saying that nearly all insects and arachnids brought into a home on a Christmas tree will stay on the tree.
“A few may be attracted to sources of light, including windows,” an article on the Penn State website says. “But, because they are associated with field-grown conifers, none of these accidental introductions are a threat to your home, its contents, or occupants.”
If you are truly afraid of sheltering any unwanted six or eight-legged guests, there are measures you can take to prevent any potential infestation.
Lehman and Stimmel suggest vigorously shaking a new Christmas tree before bringing it into your home. There are even some lots, they say, that have mechanical tree shakers on site. They also recommend removing any bird nests or egg sacs that you might find amongst the branches before bringing the tree inside.
Safer Brand recommends leaving the tree in your garage for a few days, or sprinkling the tree with diatomaceous earth, which is an insecticidal powder, before bringing it indoors. You can also spray the tree with neem oil spray.
You can vacuum pests off your tree using an extension hose according to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association. which also advises against fumigating your home against Christmas tree borne pests, calling it unnecessary.
One thing you shouldn’t do, according to Lehman and Stimmel as well as Safer Brand and the NCCTA, is spray the tree with aerosol chemical pesticides, many of which are flammable and will increase the fire risk within your home.