BALTIMORE, Md. - A few days after decorating their Christmas tree, a family discovered specks all over there floor. Upon further inspection, they were mites, and they were coming from the tree.
“According to Safer Brand, there could be up to 25,000 different pests in a tree, most commonly aphids, spiders can get in, beetles,” said Sasa Milenkovic, owner of Pest Czar.
The family has had live trees for the past 40 years, and in the last three years, they’ve experienced two bug breakouts from trees that came from two different businesses.
“Once introduced into a warm environment such as a house they tend to reactivate and wreak havoc around the Christmas tree,” said Milenkovic.
To avoid unwanted guests, Milenkovic recommends vigorously shaking the tree in the parking lot, leaving it sit in your garage a few days, visually inspecting the tree for any pests before you buy, using a leaf blower or pre-treating the tree before it's brought into your home.
“I would probably rely on organic products that would safe for the tree and the occupants of the home such as Diatomaceous Earth is a pretty effective product as well as Neem Oil,” said Milenkovic.
But if you were to ask Jeff Nicoll about bug breakouts, he would say they are very uncommon. He's been in the tree-selling business for 58 years and had just one complaint of mites.
“Because all these trees are cultivated, they're constantly being sprayed for needle cast and disease and insects, so that's why we don't have a problem. But a lot of these tree farms where you cut your own tree, they can't afford to do that so they're the ones you're going to have a problem and there have been problems at cut your own tree places,” said Nicoll of Nicoll's Tree Farm.
He and other tree farmers can't guarantee a bug-free Christmas tree, however, Nicoll says he comes close and that's way better than the artificial alternative.
“Every one person that walks off here says the price is too high, I'm not going to spend that, I'm going to get an artificial tree, we'll have two people come back that had artificial trees and want a live tree. They can't capture the smell of a live tree, if that happens it could be trouble,” Nicoll said.
While gross, Milenkovic said these Christmas tree pests are typically not harmful to humans only to trees.
You can also lay down double-sided tape around the tree to see if you have a pest problem. And always check the labels for any chemical products you use to make sure they're safe for indoors and around children or pets.