CLEMSON — The winter holidays are here and some folks may have visits from unexpected and unwelcomed guests.

The Christmas tree industry has been growing about 2-3 percent every year since 2009.

People using live Christmas trees should shake the trees well to remove any insects that may be hiding among the branches, leaves, or needles before bringing the trees indoors.
Image Credit: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture

These guests are insects that can enter homes through firewood, as well as Christmas trees and even pets. Clemson Cooperative Extension entomologist Eric Benson said one way to cut down on the number of these uninvited guests is avoid bringing firewood inside before the wood is to be burned.

“Insects that use wood as food or a resting place will emerge indoors and worry many people,” Benson said. “Insects such as long-horned beetles, other wood-boring beetles, wasps, some moths and several other small insects may fly around indoors and be attracted to lights and windows.”

Don’t fret if you see these insects inside your home. Benson said they generally are just nuisance pests coming from the firewood.

“They should not infest any furniture or structural wood in a home,” he said.

Cinara aphids, which are very large brown aphids, can often be brought indoors on Christmas trees. Even though they are plant feeders, many people think Cinara aphids are ticks and can cause great concern when several hundred are seen walking around the holiday tree. To help ensure this doesn’t happen to you, Benson has some tips.

“Inspect Christmas trees carefully,” Benson said. “If any sooty mold or honey dew is observed, do not buy the tree. These are indications of aphids or scale infestations and, with them, you can get ladybeetles.”

Cinara aphids can be brought inside on Christmas trees.

Shake Christmas trees before bringing indoors to remove tick-like Cinara aphids or any other insects that may be on the trees.
Image Credit: BugGuide.net

Other insects, typically outdoor nesters or plant feeders, may be brought into homes on potted plants moved indoors to avoid freezing temperatures outside. Sometimes fire ants or Argentine ants nesting in outdoor pots get inside homes this way.

As a final cool-weather precaution, Benson said it is important to make sure pets are free of fleas. Bathe and treat pets before bringing them inside, he said.

To make sure there are no unusual insect guests coming inside over the holiday, Benson reminds folks to check for and remove insects before bringing firewood or Christmas trees inside. If insects are found once trees or firewood are brought inside, bring them back outside and remove any insects detected or vacuum or sweep them up. If found early, many insects can be removed without using insecticides or other chemical treatments.

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