Each holiday season, over 33 million Christmas trees are sold. Though most live trees are freshly cut and free of infestation, some may bring along unwanted pests. According to Safer Brand, there could be more than 25,000 bugs on your Christmas tree.
Live trees often contain pests that are simply hibernating, yet when they come in contact with warmer indoor temperatures, they awaken, thinking it is spring. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has warned New York constituents after a bug, known as the Spotted Lanternfly, appeared on Christmas trees sold in New York City.
"This little critter looks nice, but he's no love bug," Schumer said. "If we do nothing about them, trees in Central Park, on the streets of New York City, and our beautiful leafy suburbs could very well be at risk."
Schumer has requested that the Department of Agriculture provide resources to stop the bugs from spreading to neighboring trees.
Dr. Angela Tucker, Manager of Technical Services at Terminix, said that during the summer months a variety of insects live on natural Christmas trees, including caterpillars, box-elder bugs, scale insects, wood-boring beetles, stink bugs, and many others.
"At Christmas time, most of these insects have completed their development and/or have moved to a different location for the winter. Although if you live in a warm state, then you can still have all these insects except caterpillars on your tree," Tucker said.
The aphids that often hatch from live Christmas trees are frequently mistaken for spiders. Bark beetles that awaken indoors may bore through the trunk of the tree though they tend to stay away from dryer woods like furniture or beams. Praying mantis eggs start hatching after being indoors for several weeks. Once born, the mantises may swarm around the tree in search of food. Also, mites may awaken and feed on other bugs and eggs, and spiders, which aren’t necessarily dangerous, may eventually die from living indoors.
Though disheartening, there is a solution to keeping a live tree bug-free. Simply pre-treat the tree before setting it up indoors. Diatomaceous Earth, an odorless, non-synthetic insecticidal powder can be applied to the tree while it's outside and shaken off before being brought inside. Neem Oil Spray can also eliminate bugs from Christmas trees. It can be used prior to bringing the tree inside or when you see pests lurking around your tree.
"Most wood-boring beetle species young take years to develop into adults and spend most of their life inside the wood. At this time of the year, the young would be feeding inside the tree," Tucker said.
"In general, wood-boring beetles can become a concern when furniture is infested. The adults will emerge, look for a mate, and for some species, the next generation will re-infest the wood to develop," she added.
Synthetic trees are not immune from infestation. Often, if stored in attics or basements, they may also have bugs, such as spiders. Tucker recommends inspecting your stored items monthly to check for insects.