Is Your Christmas Tree Infested with Bugs?

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Written By Jim J Neal

Yes, there are several kinds of insects that you might find in a real Christmas tree. Luckily, they’re easy to deal with.

It’s finally done. The garlands are hung and the decorations are up. You’re ready to sit back enjoy the Christmas tree and bask in the warm glow of the fireplace and the Christmas lights when suddenly you notice something.

It starts with the smallest of movements, but then you look a little closer. That’s when you notice it’s not just one thing moving around on the tree—it’s thousands of things.

Bugs!

Bugs in your Christmas tree sounds like something out of a horror movie. Luckily, it’s a rare occurrence and the bugs that live in evergreen trees aren’t harmful. That doesn’t make them any less gross, and it’s certainly not something you want to deal with when you’d rather be sipping egg nog.

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What Kind of Bugs Live in Christmas Trees?

Obviously, bugs are something you only have to worry about with real Christmas trees. When you bring a tree into the warm indoors, it tricks those critters into thinking that spring has sprung, and it’s time to party. However, they typically don’t live long once the tree is inside.

There are a few different types of creepy crawlers that can get into your tree. It’s helpful to know what they are and how to identify them.

Adelgids: These bugs look like little pieces of snow because of the wax they produce that covers their yellow bodies.

Aphids: If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you’re probably familiar with aphids. They’re tiny black or brown bugs that look like ticks, except with six legs. They feed on the sap.

Bark Beetles: There’s nothing fab about these things. They burrow into the wood of a tree. They prefer moist wood, so your furniture is safe.

Mites: If there is a bird’s nest in your tree, there could be mites and parasites that live in the nests. These can be harmful, so inspect your tree to make sure there’s not a bird’s nest in the branches.

Pine Needle Scales: If you notice little white sacks on the needles of your tree, those are the eggs of the pine needle scale. When they hatch, they turn into small red bugs, and they can cause needles to fall off.

Praying Mantis: These bugs will sometimes leave their egg sacks in trees, which can start to hatch after a few weeks indoors. They’re not harmful.

Psocids: These are small, winged insects that feed off mold and fungus in a tree. They’ll die quickly inside the house where the humidity is low.

Spiders: Yep, spiders can live in trees. The good news is that the kinds of spiders that live in trees are not harmful. They eat the other insects living in the tree.

How to Kill Bugs in Your Christmas Tree

First and foremost, do not use any kind of bug spray or insecticide. Those are flammable and pose a risk next to the heat caused by Christmas tree lights.

You can leave the bugs and let nature take its course. It’s impossible for most of these critters to live very long indoors. Another option is to spray your tree with neem oil to kill the insects. You can also dust the tree with diatomaceous earth, but that can be dangerous to pets if you use too much of it.

If you see bugs from the tree gathering on the ceiling or in a window, you can just vacuum them up.

How to Prevent Christmas Tree Bugs

An ounce of prevention is really the best method for dealing with Christmas tree bugs. Just follow a few simple steps when you’re picking out a tree.

  1. Give the tree a thorough examination. Look for bugs and check for bird’s nests. If there is a nest in the tree, find another one.
  2. Look for white sacks on the needles or the branches. Those could be adelgids or pine needle scales.
  3. Give it a good shake. A hardy rattle or two will send bugs scurrying for the exits. It’s worth giving it another shake when you get home, before bringing it into the house.

Finally, if you really don’t want to deal with bugs you can always get an artificial Christmas tree.

Ryan Van BibberRyan Van Bibber

Ryan Van Bibber
Ryan Van Bibber is a deputy editor at Family Handyman. He’s been DIY’ing since he was a kid. A resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, he is especially proud of his aptitude with a swamp cooler, repairing stucco and engineering makeshift shade. As a career journalist, Ryan covered the NFL for more than a decade, worked as a senior editor at Outside as well as writing and editing buying guides and product reviews for several national publications. When he’s not working, you can find him on the trails with his family and two very good dogs.

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