Seasonal Factsheet: Christmas tree pests

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Adelgids on Douglas-fir
(Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org)

In time for the holiday season, we’re providing you with vital information about the pests you may have inadvertently brought into your home with your real Christmas tree. While some of them may become active after being exposed to the warm temperatures inside, we should stress that none of these visitors are a threat to you or your home.

Diagnosis

  • Adelgids: Adelgids secrete cottony wax filaments over their bodies called “flocking”. They are sedentary and do not leave the tree.
  • Aphids: Most aphids are tiny, inactive and host specific, i.e. they can only survive by feeding on a particular species of tree. They will not transfer to your houseplants.
  • Bark Beetles: These beetles can be found boring into the trunk, creating small holes and very fine sawdust. Although they bore into bark or wood, they are not a threat to any wooden furniture or structural parts of the house as it is too dry.
  • Pine leaf scale: Scales spend winter in the egg stage but may hatch in the warmth. They appear as tiny, slowly moving red specks, sometimes excreting small amounts of a clear, sticky liquid known as honeydew when they feed.

Prevention

  • Vigorously shaking the tree before bringing it into your home will dislodge most insects, and has the added benefits of removing any loose needles.

Direct Control

  • Warm temperatures, low humidity and lack of appropriate food conditions typical of most homes will usually kill most pests.
  • Any dead insects fallen off the tree can be removed with a vacuum cleaner, but take care around decorations and presents…

Source: PennState College of Agricultural Sciences; Plantwise Knowledge Bank

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