Whether it's your family's tradition to bundle up and go choose a tree to chop down, or you pick one up from the tree lot each year, live Christmas trees can be host to some creatures you may not want to celebrate with.
It's true that Christmas tree growers do their best to eliminate insects -- whether through pesticides or more natural methods -- but some creepy-crawlies like mites, roaches and spiders are likely to hitch a ride into your home. Some researchers have found as many as 25,000 insects -- mostly very tiny and harmless, but the number is still alarming -- on a typical holiday tree.
Here's how to minimize the number of bug intruders you have this holiday season:
Before You Bring Your Tree Home
Many Christmas tree farms where you cut your own have tree shakers. These operate a little like the paint shaking machines at your local home improvement store. You put the trunk in a holder and turn it on, and it will jiggle and shake your tree to remove any loose needles -- and insects.
If you don't have the luxury of using a machine, you'll have to do the shaking yourself. With one gloved hand, reach into the middle of the tree and firmly grab the trunk. Raise and lower the tree as forcefully as you can, tipping it slightly away from you. Turn the tree and repeat until loose needles stop falling.
You should also do a visual inspection of your tree. Look for any webs that could indicate a spider, or any egg masses on the trunk. You should also be on the lookout for living insects that you can brush away.
When You Get Home
Give your tree another good shake once you get home. If you have a heated garage or sun porch, you might consider setting up the tree in there and leaving it for a few hours, then checking it once again for signs of insects.
As well, most bugs are accustomed to the colder outdoor temperatures. If you can turn up the thermostat a few degrees, the warmth may be enough to drive out or kill them.
Other Ways to Manage Insects
Some Christmas tree farms and wholesalers will spray trees with a bug spray either a few days before cutting or just after they are cut. You can ask to see if your tree supplier does this. Caution: Don't spray your tree with bug spray yourself, as some types are flammable. Professional growers know what to use that won't make your tree a fire hazard.
Also, some families prefer the look of a flocked Christmas tree. You can have the tree seller do this or you can do it yourself at home. The process will often drive away or kill bugs on the tree, so even though it can be spendy, if you like the look, here's a bonus reason for flocking.
Has thinking about bugs in the tree brought you to the point of considering an artificial tree? Well, you're probably not completely safe there, either. Depending on how and where you store your tree, you may have some bugs or rodents from your attic, basement or barn coming in with that, as well. For best results, store your tree in a sealable container or bag -- chew-proof, if you have mice around -- and unpack it outdoors before you set it up inside.
If you're concerned about insects and need some help eliminating them from your home, contact your local pest control technician, like Edmonton Exterminators Ltd.