Holiday & Seasonal

There Might Be Thousands Of Bugs In Your Christmas Tree—Here’s How To Keep Them Out Of Your House

Yikes! Make sure the only thing under your tree is presents!

There are some ways in which an artificial Christmas tree simply doesn’t compare to a real one: the fresh fragrance of pine, the unique shape that can’t quite be replicated … and the bugs.

Wait, what?

It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are shopping for a tree, but when you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Creepy-crawly critters find their homes in natural settings, so of course there might some insects living in those fresh-cut trees. A few bugs are no big deal, right? How about a few thousand?

CBS This Morning recently reported that a single Christmas tree could be hiding as many 25,000 bugs. Before you decide to swap your traditional real tree for an artificial one, learn more about the pests that might be dwelling inside your holiday greenery and how you can avoid an infestation in your home.

Bugs That Live In Christmas Trees

The good news is that the types of insects that typically take up residence in conifers are not a threat to your home or family. The following critters might be living in your Christmas tree:

  • Adelgids – harmless bugs that suck sap from trees
  • Aphids – another variety of tiny sap-sucking insects
  • Bark beetles – although they bore holes in trees to live in, the wood inside your home is too dry for these bugs
  • Mites – not a threat to people or pets, these parasites prey on other insects
  • Praying mantids – these long-legged bugs will not harm you
  • Psocids – existing on a diet of fungus, mold, pollen and dead insects, these critters will die quickly in an indoor environment
  • Scale insects – yet another small bug that enjoys tree sap
  • Spiders – the types of arachnids that live in pine trees prefer insects to humans

pine tree spider photo
Flickr | john shortland

What To Look For

Examine the tree before you purchase it. Check lower branches for aphids. Tiny red or brown dots might indicate mites or scale insects. Look for spider webs, holes bored by beetles and insect eggs, as well. In addition, inspect the tree for birds’ nests, eggs or live insects crawling on the branches.

picking christmas tree photo
Flickr | afeitar

Before You Bring The Tree Home

Thankfully, most reputable Christmas tree farms use mechanical shakers that jiggle unwanted critters loose from the trees before they are sold. Still, it’s not a bad idea to take precautions before bringing a tree into your house. To shake critters and dead needles loose, stand the tree on its trunk, grab it above shoulder height and vigorously shake it back and forth. You may also want to leave it in the garage for a few days after you get it home.

picking christmas tree photo
Getty Images | Joern Haufe

Safe Pesticides To Consider

Avoid insecticides that could be harmful to your family or pets. But if you wish to treat your Christmas tree before setting it up, there are a couple of safe options. You can dust it with diatomaceous earth, which is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock that kills many types of bugs (but is harmless to humans and animals). Alternatively, you can spray it with neem oil, which is a natural pesticide.