Visiting the local Christmas tree farm to pick out a tree is a tradition for many families in Maryland. There’s nothing more festive than piling into the car to hand select the right tree.
Fresh, live Christmas trees have a lot to offer that fake ones can’t - fuller branches, that traditional pine scent. But your freshly cut pine can also attract uninvited guests to your home around the holidays; and no – we’re not talking about your in-laws!
There are a number of pests that can seek shelter in a Christmas tree and travel into your home. Most of these insects go dormant in cold winter months, but your warm home can revive them and allow them to start reproducing.
Let The Firs Fly
Before your bring your tree inside, shake it off!
Most Christmas tree lots and farms offer a shaking service. Mechanical shakers dislodge potential hitchhikers and any unhatched eggs that may be hiding in your branches. As an added bonus, you’ll lose any loose pine needles before they have a chance to fall off in your living room.
No shaker? No problem. You can get the same results at home. Rest the trunk of the tree on the ground, grab the trunk at shoulder height, and shake it back and forth vigorously.
Once your Christmas tree has been given a good shake, use a flashlight to closely inspect branches for nests, egg masses, or any bugs that managed to hang on for the ride.
Identify Your Bugs
There are a number of potential tree pests that are attracted to pine, though they vary by area. Common invaders in Maryland include:
Adelgids: These pests resemble aphids, but they feed primarily on coniferous trees. They’re usually identifiable by the cottony white masses they produce when they suck the sap from spruce needles.
Bark beetles: Beetles aren’t likely to hang out on the outside of your tree; but rather, inside it! These dark brown or black beetles bore into the trunk of your tree, creating small holes and very fine sawdust.
Praying mantis egg masses: Look for light tan, walnut-sized egg masses on your tree. If mantids hatch inside your home, they’ll swarm around your tree looking for food; and because they’re cannibalistic, they’ll eat one another if they can’t find something else to eat. (Yuck!)
Scale insects: Sometimes referred to as “tree lice,” these red crawlers look like specks moving around your tree.
Spiders: Most spiders on a Christmas tree are small and are seeking insects to feed on and won’t post a threat to your family or pets. If they make it into your living room, they’ll either hide in your tree unnoticed, or they’ll venture off and spin small webs in the corners of your room before dying.
Safely Remove Invaders
Once you’ve put the tree up in your home, you’ll want to vacuum regularly. Not only will this keep pine needles from being tracked through the house, but it will get rid of any pests that may have climbed down from the tree and started exploring the rest of your house.
Don’t use chemical pesticides or other sprays around your tree to try and control pests. Aerosol sprays coat needles and branches, making them flammable; which is not ideal when you’ve got strings of lights on top.
Instead, the experts at B.O.G. Pest Control recommend the following to keep pests away:
Leave the tree in your garage for a few days, giving pests a chance to find new homes or die off before you bring them indoors.
Neem oil spray is an organic knockdown control spray that is safe for your home and family, and will keep pests away from your tree. Give your tree a spray before you bring it indoors.
The good news for homeowners who worry about Christmas tree pests is that most of these pests can only live on evergreen trees - meaning they won’t infest your house plants, and instead, will die off as your Christmas tree dries out.
With some simple preventative measures, you can ensure that pests won’t take a toll on your Christmas spirit this holiday season!