Ways to protect against bugs from coming in on Christmas trees

Centre County, Pa. - Each year nationwide, families bring trees into their homes hoping to bring some Christmas joy and cheer, but what some people don't know is that they might be bringing in some unwanted house guests. 

"Adelgids, Alphids, which are both plant sucking insects, bark beetles. Something I didn't mentions are scale insects those are also plant, juice sucking insects" Penn State Insect Identification Lab Director Michael Skvarla said. 

Those are just some bugs that could hitch a ride into your home on a Christmas tree, but one decoration some folks look for might not be the safest. 

"Have you heard the story that if a person cuts a tree  with birds nest in it, it brings a year of good luck? People actually hunt for a tree with a bird's nest in it to cut," co-owner of Tannenbaum Farms  Martha Weidensaul said. 

Experts say nest should be removed because they can carry bird mites.

"Again, it warms up, they think it's time to start looking for a new host, um those can bite people," Skvarla said.  

There are some preventative measures that can be taken to keep bugs outside. 

"We don't believe in using pesticides, unless we need to use pesticides. So we don't. We take natural precautions. As you say, shaking them out is valuable," Weidensaul said.  

Pulling off praying mantis egg cases will also stop them from possibly hatching from inside, but never use spray insecticides. 

"They're also flammable, so if you accidentally get them on a shorted Christmas tree light or something they could catch fire. And obviously that's bad when you have a very flammable Christmas tree as well," Skvarla said. 

But these folks aren't letting these critters get in the way of tradition. 

"Bugs do not concern me. A real tree is a tradition in my family. I will always stick to a real tree. Bugs are not -- they don't bother me," tree buyer Bridget Button said. 

"No, I've never seen anything come off of a tree. Not anything more than what our dogs are dragging in," tree buyer Phillip Guss said. 

For anyone that finds insects on a tree or at any time of year, Penn State offers a free identification service. People can drop of samples at Penn State Extension locations, HERE.

Samples can also be sent directly to the Department of Entomology at 501 Agricultural Science and Industries Building, University Park, PA 16802. Those samples should be in a liquid tight container with a bit of rubbing alcohol to preserve the insect, along with full contact information. Skvarla can also be emailed directly with pictures of the insects at mxs1578@psu.edu. 
 


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