With the Christmas holiday approaching, many trees are making their way inside the home. Jonathan Larson, University of Kentucky entomology specialist, shares insights on how to maintain trees and prevent bug infestation.
“If your household celebrates Christmas, and if you prefer to use a natural tree to do so, you may end up bringing in more than just a beautiful evergreen,” he said. “Firs, pines, and spruces can all harbor a multitude of arthropods nestled in their foliage or even living under the bark.”
Larson said the “post-harvest” pests emerge once inside the warm, conditioned house. Although, the outdoor critters remain mostly dormant because of the cold, winter weather before they come inside the home.
“Once they come inside though, our interior heating will warm them up and allow them to start moving around. This group can include large and obvious specimens like spiders and stink bugs, as well as smaller, harder to detect types, like barklice and predatory mites,” he said.
Larson said the tree bugs may wander elsewhere in the home after settling in but are not suited to survive very long in the home’s dry air setting.
Overwintering stages enable invaders like insect eggs or pupae to remain burrowed in the tree without any inputs to survive.
“When they come into our consistently 68- to 70-degree homes, though, they start developing rapidly and will be able to hatch or emerge just in time for Christmas dinner,” said Larson.
Fir trees are a favorite hatching destination for mantids, a praying mantis.
“Mantids create an ootheca, an egg case that looks like spray foam insulation and protects their eggs,” said Larson.
Bark beetles are another insect tree burrower. Beetle larvae are well suited to the warm temperatures of a home, where they live and feed in wood.
Larson said none of the aforementioned arthropods pose a hazard to homes, pets, people, or stocking stuffers.
“You can always easily vacuum them up and dispose of them.”
He advises homeowners that insect hitchhikers seldom invade homes, nonetheless, he suggests vacuuming, sweeping, and spritzing with soapy water as acceptable mitigation practices.