Keeping Your Christmas Tree Bug-Free

Live Christmas trees provide insects with a wonderful place to wait out the snow and cold of winter. Unfortunately, this means that occasionally hibernating insects get indoors by hitching a ride on your Christmas tree. Once inside, warm temperatures fool them into thinking it is time to get up and get active, and (eek!) maybe even reproduce. Here are some tips for keeping your Christmas tree bug-free.

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Bugs to Watch Out For

Several types of insects are fond of over-wintering in conifers, including certain types of aphids, spider mites, sow bugs, beetles, earwigs, praying mantids, spiders, and even earthworms. They don't normally cause any damage (e.g. spread to your houseplants), because let's face it, the interior of your house isn't exactly the coniferous forest habitat they need to survive. Most will die after thawing out and waking up, and the remaining bugs are usually nothing more than a nuisance.

Buggy Trees Are Rare

According to the North Carolina State University Christmas Tree website, the chances of you buying a buggy trees is actually rare. In fact, only about one tree in 100,000 will have any of the above bugs in it when you buy it. The odds are best when temperatures are mild around the time the trees are harvested. Despite the fact that buggy trees are a relatively rare occurrence, it does happen. Therefore, unless you are willing to risk having bugs crawling over your presents or potentially starting the New Year with hundreds of mantid eggs hatching in your living room, you'll want to inspect your tree carefully to minimize the chances of bringing bugs indoors.

Tips for De-Bugging Your Tree

  • Inspect your tree carefully at the time of purchase. Look for webs, white dust-like residue on the needles, bore holes in the trunk, and small bird nests hidden among the branches (they may contain mites). If you see any of these signs, move on and look for a different tree.

  • Before you bring your tree indoors, shake it vigorously. This will dislodge debris like pollen, dust and dead needles.

  • As an extra step (for those in warmer climates), you may also want to spray the tree down with a garden hose and allow it to dry before bringing it inside.
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  • If you see insects, don't squish them. Many insects (especially aphids) will leave dark colored stains on your carpet and furniture if you squash them. A better alternative is to suck them up using a vacuum with a hose attachment.

  • DON'T apply insecticides of any kind to your tree. They are toxic and can cause harm to your family members-even when initially applied outdoors. Applying chemicals to your tree will also make it more flammable. If you discover a pest problem large enough that you feel you need to use spray, you're better off returning the tree to the seller and exchanging it for another one.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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