Keep Your Christmas Tree Free of Bugs

What Signs to Look For

Christmas tree close-up.

The Image Bank/Debra McClinton/Getty Images

There's nothing like the smell of an evergreen tree to get you in the holiday spirit. But when you bring a live or cut Christmas tree indoors, some of the insects that have called your Christmas tree home might be joining you for the holiday season. Here's what you need to know about Christmas tree insects.

Holiday Bugs Pose a Very Small Risk 

You really don't need to worry about bringing any dangerous or destructive pests inside with your Christmas tree. Your home isn't appropriate habitat for insects that inhabit coniferous forests, and they aren't going to move in for good. Lacking food and adequate humidity to survive, most Christmas tree insects die soon after moving indoors. Just keep an eye out. If you find insects, they won't bite or sting and won't travel far from the tree.

Insects that Live in Christmas Trees

Coniferous trees attract a variety of small insects that may be visible only in large numbers. Aphids are common pests of evergreen trees, and the warm conditions of your home may cause overwintering aphid eggs to hatch. Some conifers host adelgids, which produce cottony secretions over their bodies. Mites and scale insects also inhabit Christmas trees.

Larger Christmas tree insects include bark beetles and praying mantids. Adult mantids will be long gone from the cold temperatures, but mantid egg cases can hatch when introduced to the warmth of your home. If that happens, you'll have hundreds of tiny mantids wandering in search of food. Christmas trees often harbor spiders, too.

Check for Insects Outside

Harmless or not, you probably don't want to spend the holiday season with bugs crawling around among the presents or flying into your windows trying to escape. You can minimize the chance of Christmas tree insects wandering around your living room, though, before you get it inside.

When choosing a tree, inspect it carefully. Look for signs of aphids or other small insects. They'll likely appear as little brown or red dots. Adelgids resemble a dusting of snow. And don't forget to examine the undersides of branches. Check each branch for egg cases, which could contain praying mantises. Prune out any you find because your warm home will feel like spring and induce eggs to hatch. Brown cocoons may harbor sawflies. Look at the trunk, too—small holes with sawdust trails are a sign of bark beetles. Reject any tree that seems heavily infested with pests.

Before bringing the Christmas tree in the house, shake it vigorously to dislodge insects and spiders. Remove any bird nests, as these can contain mites.

If you want to be sure that you found all the bugs, putting the tree in a five-gallon bucket of water in the garage for a few days can serve your peace of mind. If you do want to go after bugs found on the tree, dust it with diatomaceous earth, which dries out any bugs it comes into contact with. Wear eye and face protection when applying, as it's actually pulverized rock that you don't want in your eyes or lungs. Shake the tree to remove excess before bringing it inside.

Christmas Tree Insects Indoors

Whatever you do, do not spray aerosol pesticides on your Christmas tree. These products are flammable! Insects require humidity to live, and most will desiccate and die within a matter of days. Additionally, they will be unable to survive without food. It is much safer, and better for your health, to simply vacuum up any dead insects you find.