Can live Christmas Trees bring ticks or insects into your home?
First, let's discuss ticks. It is possible to bring ticks into your home on a live Christmas tree, but it is rare. Ticks can shelter in Christmas trees especially if it is a mild fall and there are a lot of wild animals in that area prior to it being cut. The Christmas tree industry says it never happens, but I see a few instances every year.
However, there is a more common possibility. Cinara Aphids are often mistaken for ticks. They are large brownish-black aphids that can occur in large numbers on Christmas trees. They are harmless to people and pets but can leave a stain if crushed against walls, carpets, etc. As the tree begins to dry out, the aphids begin to migrate to find a new host plant. This results in hundreds of bugs crawling off the tree, over presents, and across your floor.
If we have a warm fall in the Northern states where Christmas trees are grown, you may even find a variety of other insects that you would expect to find nesting in any wooded area during the summer months. Wasps and Praying Mantises are two possibilities. It has been pretty mild up north this fall, so who knows what we might find in the coming weeks.
Ok, so what do you do if one of these pests get in your home? For control of these pests, your options are limited. First, let’s discuss ticks. You have a fully decorated Christmas tree with the children’s presents all around it. That is nothing you want to go near with bug spray.
You could do a broadcast or spot tick treatment, but all the presents would have to be moved and you haven’t done anything yet about the source (the tree itself). You want to use caution around a Christmas tree and all the presents to limit insecticide exposure to people and pets.
Even if that wasn’t true, it is still a bad idea to spray a Christmas tree. Many aerosol products will defoliate a Christmas tree. I then get asked, “What if I take off the ornaments and drags the tree outside, can I spray it with a product labeled for Lawn & Ornamental pest control?”
You may interpret this to be a labeled application but stay away from that temptation. Ticks usually take several applications to get control and it isn’t practical to do this weekly.
The best option is for the customer to return the tree to where they bought it and exchange it for another one. While the tree is gone, a good thorough vacuuming should take care of any remaining pests.
You can make a labeled application for ticks to that area of the home if needed to control any you missed. Alpine Flea and Bed Bug Aerosol is a good option.
For Cinara aphids or other pests, usually just using a vacuum cleaner is the best solution. Usually, their numbers are low and they are harmless to people and pets. If you do encounter a large number of Cinara aphids or spider mites you may want to recommend that the customer return the tree.
As with ticks, a labeled application of a residual product can be made to the area after the tree is removed.
While these situations are what nightmares are made of, I do want to emphasize that I see very few cases of these pests every year.
Be aware of the possible pests, but nothing is better than the smell of a fresh cut Christmas Tree in your home!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Joe Jonovich is the Lead Entomologist for ePestHero.com and has been in the Pest Management industry for over 20 years. He has a Master’s Degree in Entomology from the University of Florida. He has owned his own pest management company, worked for manufacturers, and has been the technical director for a Top-20 pest management company. He can be contacted at joe@ePestHero.com