Keep your Christmas tree bug free


December 1, 2021

Photo: Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images

Photo: Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images

One of the most exciting parts about the holiday season is putting up a freshly-cut Christmas tree. Keep your customers aware of the pests that they can find in their tree and how to keep it bug-free as possible so that they don’t stay their home after the holidays.

There are several different types of bugs that could be hiding in your Christmas tree, according to Dr. Chad Gore, an entomologist and market technical director with Ehrlich Pest Control.

Here are some common pests to keep an eye out for while decorating your tree:

  1. Aphids. Similar to ticks but have six legs and are typically a few millimeters in length. They are often black or brown but can also be red or green, and some may also develop wings.
  2. Adelgids. These insects are tiny with a wool-like wax coating that can produce what looks like a light dusting of snow on your tree. The dusting is usually found around the buds, candles or needle bases of the tree. Adelgids can also be yellow or purple.
  3. Pine needle scale. The eggs of these insects look like little white specs on the tree’s needles, similar to flecks of white paint. These infested needles often drop early. If they hatch, small red bugs will appear.
  4. Spiders. These predatory feeders are looking to feast on insects living in the tree, Gore said.
  5. Bark beetles. These bugs are about the size of a grain of rice and have red, brown or black coloring. Bark beetles feed on stressed trees, so it is possible the bugs colonized before the tree was harvested. They prefer moist wood so they won’t pose a threat to structures in your home, like furniture.
  6. Psocids. Little winged insects, also known as bark lice or booklice, like to eat mold or fungi that might be on the tree. The bugs are typically brown or gray in color and die quickly in homes due to low humidity. Despite their name, the bugs are not like typical lice and do not bite or feed on humans.
  7. Praying mantis. In some areas of the country, it is possible for praying mantises to be in the tree, Gore said. Egg cases can be attached to the branches, which are large and brown. In this case, take that part of the branch outdoors to keep it from hatching inside.

Additionally, if there is a bird’s nest in a tree you are interested in, choose another one. Bird’s nest can contain mites and other parasites.

Where to find the bugs in the tree depends on the type of bug.

“Scale insects and aphids are sap-feeding insects that can be found on the trunk, limbs and the woody parts of the tree. This is also where you’ll find bark beetles and psocids,” Gore said.

Adelgid are more likely to be found on the limbs or green parts of the tree and can lay eggs that are white and sac-like with wispy webbing around it. These eggs can be seen easily against the green of the tree limbs. Spiders can appear anywhere in a tree from hiding in the trunk or within the boughs of the tree.

Gore said there is no reason to panic if you find pests in your Christmas tree. Most of them prefer to eat plants, so they won’t create much of an issue. While uncommon, some spiders can bite so it’s best to wear gloves when handling your tree and setting it up inside.

The best way to get rid of any bugs is to vacuum them up and then empty the canister or remove the vacuum cleaner bag. Gore said to empty the vacuum into a larger trash bag, seal it and take it to an outdoor trash can or dumpster.

Gore said not to use an over-the-counter insecticide on or around a Christmas tree since many are flammable, and the heat of Christmas tree lights could be a problem.

To prevent any pest issues overall, shine a light into the truck of the tree at several points while picking it out to look for insects or eggs. Gore recommends giving your tree a “vigorous shake or two” before putting it in the car or house.

To avoid an infestation and prevent concern about pests in your tree all together, it’s best to get an artificial tree.

Do you get an artificial or real tree for Christmas? Have you experienced pest infestations on a tree before? Comment below or send us an email at


About the Author

Ellen Wagner is a former digital editor for PMP magazine.

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