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Don't Have a Clark Griswold Christmas: Get the bugs out of your Christmas tree

A squirrel climbs out of Clark Griswold's Christmas tree in his living room, wrecking havoc upon their home. That scene (see it free here)and movie , one of the funniest Christmas movies, along with Ralphie in "A Christmas Story". can actually happen, if you don't t some precautions. Every Christmas tree can harbor a variety of insects, mites, spiders and even dormant animals. S

What to do to prevent the pests

  1. Shake before bringing the tree in - Most tree farms have mechanical tree shakers,that shake out any bugs, loose needles and varmints. Of course, you can do this yourself by vigorously shaking the tree from side to side before bringing it into your home
  2. Birds nests - Look for and remove any bird nests, since they may contain bird parasites such as mites and lice.
  3. Egg masses - Remove any praying mantis egg clumps. Take them to a wooded area of meadow as these are protected benificial specieis. Gypsy moth eggs on the other hand... can be destroyed.

What NOT to do

  • Do not use Aerosol insect sprays - they are flammable and should NOTbe sprayed on the Christmas tree. You can use a non-aerosol organic spray, like Neem Oil Spray, which is usually available at all of the big box stores, like Home Depot and nurseries.

What are the bugs and pests we might find in a tree?

Rayanne D. Lehman and James F. Stimmel at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry at Penn State tell us these are the most common bugs:

  • Adelgids - On white pine trees, they often look like "flocking". These adelgids, and the "flocking" they produce, are harmless
  • Aphids - usually dormant, but some, on true firs, the gray-green balsam twigs aphid and on pines and spruces, the larger, spiderlike Cinara aphids may be found. They are harmless, including to your houseplants... just annoying.
  • Bark Beetles - small, dark brown to black beetles typically on the trunk or boring into the trunk, creating small holes and very fine sawdust.
  • Mites - Most are tiny, light-colored, but one type is bright red and rather large; neither are a threat to people or pets.
  • Bird parasites - found in nests, which is why you should remove any nests outside
  • Praying Mantis Egg Clusters - They leave their golfball-sized egg masses that feel like styrofoam attached to evergreens. If you do not remove them and take them back outside, they will begin to hatch after being indoors for several weeks. And the poor like guys will die! These are a valuable, beneifical and legally protected specieies, so put the egg sacks back outside!
  • Psocids - small, winged, soft-bodied insects colored gray or brown. Harmless, they feed on fungus, mold, pollen, and dead insects. T
  • Scale Insects - usually the pine needle scale. Large numbers of red crawlers look like mites; shaking removes them easily.
  • Spiders - Ah, yes, your favorite. It seems everyone is afraid of spiders these days. OK, maybe a black widow or brown recluse... but really most are harmless and easily vacuumed up.

And of course, the sleeping squirrel from Christmas Vacation. Actually, this too, can happen.Mice, squirrels and other woodland creatures may have been sleeping in there. IT's pretty rare, but good motivation to shake your tree before you bring it in the house!

Other resources

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