Once we recover from the effects of our Thanksgiving feast, many of us will haul out the decorations and head to our favorite tree lot for an aromatic, fresh-cut fir, spruce or pine that will serve as the focal point for holiday parties and family gatherings for the next few weeks.
Since these 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 home, the insects behave as though spring has come and become active again.
The two pests most commonly found on fresh-cut trees are aphids and spiders. Often, eggs that would have remained dormant through the winter hatch when the tree is brought into your nice warm 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:
- Shake your tree before bringing it into your home. Many lots have mechanical shakers.
- Inspect the tree and remove bird nests and egg sacs if not dislodged by shaking.
- Vacuum up pests using an attachment without a beater bar. (Crushing the bugs can create a stain.)
- 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’re more difficult for pests to gain access inside.