Picture this. You go out with your family to select the ideal Christmas tree. After an afternoon of searching, you find it! You bring it home, decorate it, then sit back and admire how well it completes your holiday decorations. It’s lush, majestic, and best of all—It’s real! Just one problem, there are things crawling all over it. Tiny legs scuttle here and there. Maybe there's even a web. Wait, are those eggs? You guessed it: There are bugs in your Christmas tree.
This might sound like a nightmare, but it happens every year. During the winter, all sorts of bugs—from mites to beetles to spiders—take shelter in trees to escape the season’s cold conditions. Christmas trees are no exception, which is why it’s important to check your chosen tree for pesky hitchhiker's, preferably before bringing it inside. If you’ve already set up your tree, don’t worry you still have options. Here’s 5 tips to ensure your natural Christmas tree stays bug-free.
One of the most obvious options is also one of the most effective: Shaking. The idea is simple: Shake the tree vigorously enough and you’ll remove any hidden pests, as well as loose pine needles and other debris. This is an easy way to prevent bringing dirt, grime, bugs, bird nests and other undesirable things into your home. While some retail tree lots have mechanical tree shakers on site for this very purpose, many don’t. Even trees purchased from lots with shakers should be re-shaken before being brought into your home (who knows how recently the tree was last shaken).
Regardless of what preventative measures you take with your tree, it should be thoroughly inspected again before moving it into your home. Insects, spider eggs, bird nests, even rodents could still be lurking in the limbs. If you’re squeamish about pulling bugs out with your hands (which you probably should be) consider using a vacuum to remove any remaining insects, webs or eggs. As for larger items like bird nests and rodents—those should shake out quite easily.
Let it Chill
Insects that use trees to survive the winter usually enter a dormant stage as the cold approaches. Once you bring these bugs into your warm home, they start to wake back up, thinking spring has arrived. One way to get pests out of your Christmas tree before decorating it, is to place the tree in your garage for roughly 48 hours. Doing so will allow your tree to warm slowly, which in turn will cause any hidden bugs to emerge from their dormant stage and leave the tree. Of course, this method could introduce bugs into your garage. But for those who dislike killing insects outright, this is a more natural and—you could say—humane approach to debugging your Christmas tree.
For the sake of your health, your family and your pets, you should never use toxic, chemical-based pesticides on your Christmas tree. Firstly, it exposes your home to potentially harmful pollutants. Secondly, many traditional pesticides are flammable, and while a flaming tree is certainly a bug-free tree, a smoldering pine is not the best look for holiday celebrations. Having said that, treating your tree with a pesticide alternative—like diatomaceous earth—is a viable option. Before bringing your tree inside, thoroughly sprinkle it with DE. Then shake off the excess after letting it sit for about an hour. If your tree’s already indoors, you can still treat it with DE, just sweep up the remaining dust afterward (but don’t use a vacuum, as DE can harm many types of vacuums).
Again, we strongly suggest that you do not use traditional pesticides on your tree. Naturally-sourced pesticides, however, are another matter. We recommend using a plant-safe, non-toxic insecticide, such as PCO Choice concentrate. Mix a 1:31 ration of PCO Choice to water in a spray bottle, spray your tree liberally and allow it to dry before bringing it inside. Not only will this kill any hidden bugs on contact, it will prevent additional insects from taking residence in your tree through the holidays.