Buying a Christmas tree is a beloved tradition for thousands of families, and there’s something nice about having a real pine tree in your home. It smells nice, and it’s so pretty.
But, because they’re part of nature, it also means they can double as homes for several types of insects, many of which will be dormant in the cold but will happily come to life in the warmth of your living room. Aphids, which are small black or brown bugs, are some of the most common offenders. Other insects include scale insects, bark beetles, psocids, and mites.
If you don’t see any bugs, you should keep an eye out for other signs of their presence, like feeding trails, eggs, or burrows. White blobs on branches are a clear indication of adelgids. The tiny bugs create them when they suck the sap out of spruce needles.
The types of bugs you may find will vary based on where you live, and while they’re not exactly bringing Christmas cheer, they’re harmless — gross, but harmless.
What can you do? The best thing you can do after purchasing a tree is to shake it. This will dislodge any stowaways. Some places even have tree-shakers on site that will do the work for you. Of course, if you don’t have a tree-shaker handy, you can do it yourself. You may need help, so make it a family tradition. Simply stand the tree up, grab the trunk at above-shoulder height, and shake it vigorously. Despite what you may think, strapping the tree to the roof of the car and driving home won’t shake bugs off.
Another good way to clear your tree of bugs? Leave it in the garage for 24 hours before bringing it inside to decorate. Once you have the tree, be sure to vacuum regularly around its base. This will keep pine needles off your floor, and will also snatch up any bugs that have decided to climb off the tree and go exploring.
There’s more good news, too. The insects that live in pine trees need the plant to survive. Eventually, the pine tree will die, and so will they. That sounds a little grim, but it’s better than having a full-on infestation.