It’s that time of year again! Many of us will spend the next few days pulling out our cherished holiday decorations from the attic or garage and visiting our favorite tree lots to look for the perfect fresh-cut fir, spruce or pine to fill our homes with the fragrance of the holidays and serve as the focal point for parties and family gatherings. Few of us think about the “holiday pests” that we may be bringing in to our homes.
Since live Christmas trees are grown in a natural setting, we may end up bringing in a little more nature than we anticipated. There are several kinds of insects that spend the winter in these types of trees. Once you bring the tree into your nice warm home, the insects behave as though spring has arrived and they may become active again.
The two pests most commonly found on fresh-cut trees are Cinara aphids and spiders. Often, eggs that would have remained dormant through the winter hatch when the tree is brought into your home. These newly hatched insects and spiderlings are very small (approximately 1/16th inch) and can go unnoticed. Although they can be a nuisance, they are generally harmless and usually wander a very short distance before drying out and dying.
Here are a few tips to avoiding “holiday hitchhikers” on your Christmas tree:
- Inspect the tree for signs of pests, looking along the tips of branches and deep within the tree.
- Shake your tree before bringing it into your home. Many tree lots have mechanical shakers.
- Vacuum up pests using an attachment without a beater bar. (Crushing the bugs can create a stain.)
- Trees can be sprayed off with water and allowed to dry outdoors.
- If the tree is badly infested, return the tree for another one.
- Don’t use insecticide on your tree. The low humidity in most homes will usually kill these invaders in a short time.
Another source of holiday pests are the decorations that have been stored in attics, basements, garages and closets. Here are a few tips to follow as you pull out your decorations:
- Open your boxes outside before bringing anything indoors.
- Remove all the contents outside and inspect them for pests before placing them around your home.
- If you find boxes with chewed openings, open them with caution – this could be a sign of rodent activity.
- When putting your decorations away, use tight sealing containers rather than cardboard boxes. They are more difficult for pests to gain access inside.