Tips to Avoid Insect Pests on Christmas Trees and Greens
By Chris Williams on November 19, 2013.
In rare situations, that Christmas tree that you bought on the lot can come with ready-made holiday pests. There are two types of Christmas tree pests: those that actually feed on the tree and that are pests for the tree growers, and those that are just hitchhiking on the tree or seeking shelter.
The two most common grower pests are spruce spider mites and various aphids. The white pine aphid is a black insect that can be found on pine trees. These grower pests are usually killed by treatment before the trees are cut for sale. In fact, growers say that only about one in 100,000 cut trees are accidentally shipped with pests. If you cut your own tree or greens, however, you’re much more likely to be bringing home some harmless Christmas tree pests.
Christmas Trees Can Hide Hitchhikers
The second group of pests are those that have crawled into the tree looking for a place to spend the winter. These include spiders, sowbugs, ants, and beetles. These pests may have been hiding in the tree when cut or may have moved in during transport, storage on the lot, or even while the tree sat in your yard for a couple of days. A lush evergreen tree provides attractive winter shelter for all kinds of creatures. Once the tree is moved into indoor warmth, the insects become active again. Sometimes a praying mantis will lay her frothy egg case on an evergreen branch. It looks like a beige chunk of Styrofoam. Simply prune it out and place it outside to hatch in the spring.
This makes it sound like all Christmas trees are infested with numerous pests. Not the case at all. Most of the time, that tree won’t have any pests. None of the potential Christmas tree pests can cause any real damage in your home, they don’t bite or sting, they are simply occasional nuisance pests. Remove the pests by hand or vacuum up those that have left the tree. They won’t reproduce in your home either since most will die fairly quickly once they are in the drier indoor environment.
There’s no need to try to spray your tree with insecticide for these pests. A few years ago, a popular radio personality recommended dusting Christmas trees with “flea and tick powder” to protect against ticks and the Lyme disease they carry. Ticks do not live in Christmas trees. Never dust your Christmas tree with any kind of pesticide. It exposes your family unnecessarily to pesticide with no benefit in return.
Start Your Holiday with a Pest-Free Tree
Inspect Before You Buy (or Cut)
Look for aphids or other small insects nestled along the branches or in the crotch where the branches meet the trunk. Look for spider webs and look at the bottom of the branches, too. Look for powder-like sawdust and tiny holes on the trunk that are an indication of bark beetles. Bring a flashlight if you’re shopping at night.
When You Get the Tree Home
Before you bring the tree inside, shake the tree and pound the base of the trunk on the ground to dislodge any insects or spiders. Prune out any mantis egg cases. Remove masses of dead needles and debris. You can even hose down the tree if temperatures are above freezing.
Bring your Pest-Free Tree Inside…Decorate…Enjoy!