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Fresh christmas trees can be crawling with spiders, mites and other insects: What you should know

It is rare to see these critters on your tree, experts say.
(iStock)

Some claim that there is nothing better than a live, fresh-cut christmas tree to bring joy and holiday spirit to your house the jolliest day of the year. The smell of fresh pine, and the enjoyment of choosing the perfect tree with your family and the colourful decorations, but there is one potential drawback: insects.

These holiday staples can harbor certain insects, such as mites and bark beetles.

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In fact, “several hundred baby insects or spiders can be on a single tree,” the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach warns. Gardening business Safer Fire reported in 2017 that as many as 25,000 bugs (which are microscopic) can be found on a single tree.

But there is no need to fret.

“This ‘occasional invader’ of insects, spiders and pests, are harmless and should not be seen as a disturbance of the festivities,” the university added. The North Carolina State Extension is also to be noted that it is relatively rare to find pests on a tree in the first place.

But Christmas is just around the corner, it is better to prevent than to cure. Read on for a look at some of the critters that might be in your home — and what to do if you find them.

Aphids

Aphids are insects that “their piercing, sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap,” the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology, says online. These critters are usually found in colonies and have the ability to fly.

These animals are often found on christmas trees, and a certain kind of — Cinara aphids — sometimes confused with spiders or ticks. Another, balsam twig aphid, can be displayed on the “true firs”, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry states online.

Doug Hundley, a retired pest management professional and spokesperson for the National christmas tree Association, told TODAY, these animals are “innocent hitchhikers” and usually go unnoticed by the homeowners.

“They tend to move out of the tree once it starts to dry out. A couple of years they come out more often than others. This was a very wet autumn, and so I don’t think we’ll see much — if any — problems with aphids,” Jill Sidebottom with the NC State Extension told Fox News.

Also, they are not known to feed on houseplants, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry.

Spiders

During these eight-legged creatures may scare some, those typically found on christmas trees should not cause homeowners to make.

In fact, “spiders found on christmas trees are predators of insects and are not dangerous for people or pets. They are either overwintering species that have become active or spiderlings that have hatched after exposure to warm temperatures,” the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry states.

These spiders may leave the tree and form webs in the area. But this can be easily removed with a vacuum cleaner, the bureau states, pointing to the spiders that the tree is “not [an] indoor species and will die in a short time, because of their new, unsuitable environment.”

Praying mantises Video

Beware of the light brown, walnut-shaped shaped masses that can occasionally be found within the limbs of a freshly cut tree. These masses are probably a praying mantis egg sac, which can be up to 400 unhatched eggs, according to Safer Brands.

“These eggs start to hatch after it within a few weeks. When this happens, many small mantids swarm over the tree in search of food. Because they are cannibalistic they will eat each other if no other food is available,” the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry explained.

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Cut the branch with the mass and outside on an evergreen shrub or tree in the open air,” the agency advises, explaining these eggs hatch in the spring when the mantises have a better access to a food source.

“They are big, and most retailers know to look for them and remove them. Inspecting a tree for the egg-mass is the best way to reduce the chances that they would hatch out in the house,” Sidebottom said.

Mites

Mites can sometimes be found on christmas trees, but they will usually stay there and go undetected, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry.

“Several species of bird parasites may be found in nesting material after the birds leave the nest. Although these mites are generally not present on the trees in the winter, birds nesting on the tree needs to be removed to ensure that there are no mites are brought in the house,” the agency added.

In fact, “mites seldom move off of the felled trees. They can sometimes be found on the trees, but usually they are treated by the grower. I remember only one season when it was exceptionally hot and dry in the fall that they have a problem,” Sidebottom said.

Bark Beetles

Dormant bark beetles can heat your home pleasant, the cause of this “minute” brown and black creatures woke up and said “in the trunk, making small holes and very fine sawdust,” the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry also states.

But no need to worry: These beetles are not a taste for the wooden furniture in your house, what is “too dry” of them, according to the bureau.

How do I get rid of them?

When picking out a tree, make sure that the egg cases or other critters that might be lurking on the branches or near the trunk.

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After bringing the tree home, get rid of insects and loose pine needles by shaking it before putting it in. Another option is to wash the tree with a garden hose, Sidebottom said.

“For each of the pests, you can wash the tree down with a water hose before putting it in the house. Let the tree dry overnight. Pests can be wiped off, being careful not to squash them on carpets, fabrics, and things as some may have a stain,” she said.

“If a person wants to treat with an insecticide, I typically recommend insect soap is organic and can be found premixed in many hardware/home improvement stores,” she added.

Do not spray the tree with aerosol pesticides, as these products are typically flammable, Safer Brands warns.

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