Is your family in love with a real, live Christmas tree? Just this year the media has called our attention to the hitchhikers that could be on those beautiful trees. Before you change your Christmas tree plans, let’s take a look at some of the reports and check out the risks.
Bugs on trees aren’t new
According to Doug Hundley, a retired pest management professional who now serves as the seasonal spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association, Christmas trees have always had bugs. You just haven't noticed them.
"Christmas tree insects are so small you'll never know they are there and they have always been on real Christmas trees," states Hundley. "On a rare occasion a particular insect like a common aphid may crawl off a tree and be noticed by the family, but these are harmless hitchhikers."
Christmas trees, like any other household plant, will have a few bugs here and there and are a totally natural occurrence, Hundley explained. The most common insects potentially living in your Christmas tree are safe, non-invasive species such as aphids, spiders, mites and bark beetles.
According to Good Housekeeping Magazine, tree bugs go dormant during the cold months, so you might not notice them at first. But once the tree is inside your warm home, they'll wake up. And apparently there could be up to 25,000 bugs in one Christmas tree.
Getting rid of the bugs
To confirm no unwanted guests made it home with you, do a quick inspection with the help of a flashlight. Things to look for: Bird nests, egg masses, and, of course, bugs themselves. Then leave your tree in the garage for 24 hours before decorating. During the rest of the season, vacuum the floor around your tree regularly. Be sure to water that tree daily as well.
The one thing you should skip? Bug sprays, which are often flammable and don't mix well with Christmas lights. After all, a few critters is nothing compared to a tree on fire.
Mechanical tree shakers
The good news is if you go to a farm, most have mechanical tree shakers to take care of crawling critters. "A mechanical shaker will usually dislodge any potential intruders and eggs, in addition to getting rid of loose pine needles," Nancy Troyano, a medical entomologist and director of technical education and training for pest control company Rentokil Steritech. Or you can shake the tree yourself in the parking lot.
Dean and Draper
Whatever your personal choice for your tree – live or artificial, we hope that you enjoy this Holiday season, appreciate your traditions, and welcome the unexpected events that are sure to come your way.
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