Breathe, lights, decorate. The season is on, and Christmas trees—many of them plastic—are flying out of shops. But some buyers want to go natural, and bugs in the tree is something you might want to consider.
US Christmas tree farmer Sam Mintum donated a tree to a local church. “Some ladybugs came out during the sermon,” says Minturn, the executive director of the California Christmas Tree Association.
An organic pest control firm in the US issued a release stating a single Christmas tree can carry up to 25,000 bugs. Yap, insects hitchhiking their way into your living room.
The number “is an estimate,” says William Klinedinst, a spokesman for Woodstream Corp., which markets organic pest control products and came up with the number. It’s based on some research and some math, he says. While he can’t point to a published study to support that number, “I believe it to be within reason when taking a variety of insects’ reproductive habits into consideration,” Klinedinst says.
When asked for their take, the consensus of entomologists was: Inspect the tree, shake it, relax, and enjoy it. Maybe get out the vacuum.
And what kinds of bugs and gunk might you be shaking off? According to Klinedinst:
•Spiders and mites
•Adelgids (look like a dusting of snow on the tree)
•Pine needle scales
•Sawflies (brown cocoons that hatch black and yellow flies)
No need to be spooked just yet, if you don’t like insects. Klinedinst says, “None of the bugs you are going to find are particularly worrisome. They would be more of an inconvenience than an actual health issue.”
And if you find bugs when the tree is inside? “I do not recommend that people spray trees once the trees are brought inside,” says Eric Day, manager of the Insect Identification Lab at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “The occasional harmless aphid can be vacuumed off, and praying mantis egg cases can be placed outside when found.”
Or carefully remove the eggs, put them in a jar, and let your kids or grandkids watch them hatch.
Bugs or not, real Christmas trees leave less of a carbon footprint than artificial ones do: they can be completely recycled.