It’s a time-honored tradition in many Gulf Coast Florida families. Sometime after Thanksgiving, you head down to the tree farm lot and pick out your Christmas tree. Sure, we’d like to go out and cut our own, but that’s just not possible in the Sunshine State.
You pay, they run the tree through their shaker, wrap it in nylon webbing, strap it to the top of your car, and you drive it home. And usually, if we’re being honest, it stays there or in the garage for at least a day before we get it in the house and “planted” in the tree stand.
Now, you might think that since you bought the tree from a lot, it’s free of aphids, spiders and other forms of insect life. And the good news is, the mechanical shaker that sends all the loose needles to the ground does a pretty good job of jolting free the bugs too. The bad news is, it doesn’t always get rid of all of them.
Many of the common Christmas tree dwellers hibernate during the winter. But the trees get packed together in a truck, and after a long drive, they’re unloaded into what seems to be unseasonably warm temperatures. So, many of the insects are awake and happy to join you in your home.
Extra Trimmings on the Tree
We already mentioned aphids and spiders. Aphids are small black or brown bugs that suck sap out of your tree. They look like tiny ticks, but aren’t interested in your blood.
You might notice small white scaly specks on your tree. Those are most likely Pine Needle Scale eggs. The insects themselves are tiny and reddish in hue and lay their eggs in the fall. Being in a warm house can sometimes trigger the eggs to hatch. The bugs aren’t harmful to humans or pets, but they can get everywhere.
Psocids are little winged insects. They’re sometimes referred to as bark lice or booklice and they feed off mold or fungi that might be on your tree. These are also not harmful to humans, but thanks to our humid weather, may persist for a while.
If you spot a waxy build up on the needle bases of your tree, you don’t need to change your tree polish. More than likely, you’re seeing the leave-behinds of Adelgids. These tiny aphid-like insects eat the needles and tree sap and excrete wooly, waxy drops as they go.
Occasionally, you might also find some Bark Beetles on your tree. These black or brown bugs are about the size of a grain of rice. They prefer to feed on stressed trees, so you might want to keep an eye out for them while you’re tree shopping. The good news is they don’t eat wood that’s not rotting and moist.
Why would Spiders show up in your Christmas tree? The same reason they inhabit the woods around us. The arachnids eat the insects that are eating your tree. Compared to other prey, aphids and pine needle scale are easy pickings.
Removing Unwanted Presence
While none of these critters will ruin your Christmas morning, you still don’t want them in your home. The easiest preventative measure is to dust the tree with diatomaceous earth while it’s still in the garage or yard. Let it sit for several hours while you prepare the space inside your home for its unveiling. Then, when you’re ready to bring it in, shake it out first.
You’ll also want to keep a vacuum handy, preferably one with an extension hose. As you pick up the loose needles with the hose, you’ll generally collect any bugs that have fallen free.
Whatever you do, avoid pesticide sprays and aerosols. Not only are the chemicals bad for you and the environment, but the majority of them are flammable. The last thing you want is to make your Christmas tree even more of a fire hazard than it already could be.
And if you run into any other insects in your home as our temperatures cool off, we’re here to help. Our most popular solution takes care of the most common creepy crawlies encountered in Florida homes. If you’d like to learn more about Go Green Perimeter Plus, just give us a call!