How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Free of Bugs

b101 bug free xmas tree

Putting up the Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition, but who knew this could actually bring bugs into your house along with the holiday cheer? While certainly gross, there is an easy fix to keeping unwanted bugs out of your tree, keeping your holidays pest-free.

As many as 25,000 bugs can infest a single Christmas tree! To keep the tree free of bugs, treat it with Diaotmeachous earth powder, and leave the tree in the garage overnight. Before bringing it indoors, vigorously shake the tree to dislodge the majority of pests. 

While this method will solve most Christmas tree bug issues, there are some other useful tips for more stubborn pests. One of the most helpful tools is knowing what to look for when selecting your tree to avoid unwanted house guests hitching a ride into your home. Additionally, there are a few things to absolutely avoid in your house when removing any pests that do make it inside.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. -Benjamin Franklin

How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Free of Bugs

24 Hour Isolation

The first thing that is needed is to leave your tree in the garage overnight.  I know this will not win you any popularity contests, as everyone wants to bring in the festive spirit by decorating the tree.

Keeping the tree outside overnight is done for several important reasons and is a must for keeping bugs out of your house.  Most bugs that could be on your tree will usually be in an almost hibernation state from the cold.

If you immediately bring those bugs into your lovely, warm house, you invite them to wake up and run around or hatch!  It is much better if the bugs wake up in your garage and not your living room.

Treat With Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is an all-natural insecticidal powder that is perfectly safe to use around kids and pets. Dust your tree liberally while it’s sitting in the garage (or outside) overnight. The powder dries out the exoskeleton of the bugs, dehydrating and killing them. Best of all, it doesn’t hinder the wonderful scent of the freshly cut tree.

diatomaceous earth powder

Shake, Shake, Shake

The next action you will take is to give the tree a fair shake before you bring it inside.  To accomplish this feat, grab the tree by the trunk at shoulder height and firmly shake it.  This should be done after the tree has sat in your garage for at least 24 hours and right before you bring it inside to decorate.

You have given the bugs a chance to wake up, and a vigorous shake should dislodge them onto your garage floor.  An added benefit is that you will dislodge most of the loose needles on the tree before they make a mess in your house.  Do not skip the shake!

The drive to your house with the tree tied to your car will not remove pests.  You have to give the tree time to spread out by removing the bindings and giving the bugs a chance to wake up.

shake christmas tree remove bugs

Routine Maintenance

Now that your tree is inside, decorated to bring in the Christmas cheer, a simple maintenance routine will give you the peace of mind there are no unwanted bugs during your holiday season.

By vacuuming directly underneath and in the area surrounding the tree, you will remove any pests that failed to bail in the garage.  Vacuuming should be done daily and will also remove and stray needles that fall from the tree.  Be sure to empty the canister daily as well or discard your vacuum bag after the season.

prevent christmas tree bugs vacuum daily

How to Pick a Tree with Fewer Bugs

Knowing how to remove bugs from your Christmas tree is extremely helpful, but just as important is learning what to look for when picking your perfect tree.

Benjamin Franklin had it correct when he said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  The idea here is that if we can pick a tree with little or no bug infestation, then we will have a much easier time keeping our Christmas tree free of bugs.  While it is almost impossible to find a tree in nature that doesn’t have at least some bugs, there are a few telltale signs.

To pick a Christmas tree with fewer bugs you must pay attention to the overall health of the tree.  Many of the bugs use the tree as a food source, and as a result, the tree will display signs of poor health.  Avoid any trees that have a yellow, brownish tint to their needles or several dead branches. 

This is a sign that the tree may have a beetle infestation inside the trunk.  Be sure to give the tree a good shake as well.  There should be a minimum of needles falling and the tree should feel firm. The branches should be bendable, pliable, and vibrant in color.

christmas tree needles budget101

It’s always a good idea to take a bright flashlight along when picking a tree.  Use the light to look closely at the trunk and underside of the limbs.  Sometimes you will be able to see an infestation visually.  Additionally, anything with noticeable spider webbing should be avoided as a potential Christmas tree.  The spiders are usually there to eat the bugs already on the tree.

Following these tips, you should be able to select a tree with a minimum of pests that you will need to remove before you bring your Christmas tree inside.

8 Common Christmas Tree Pests

There are several types of bugs often found on Christmas trees; luckily these bugs are usually not a threat to people or pets.  Most of the pests will actually use your tree for food, in addition to a home, and will have no interest in you or your house.  You can get an occasional spider or stinging insect, but the most common bugs you will find are usually very small and hard to notice.

AdelgidsAphids Bark BeetlesBark Lice
adelgids common christmas tree pestsaphids common christmas tree pestsbark beetles common christmas tree pestsbarklice common christmas tree pests
Adelgids prefer sap from fir trees, Norway Spruce,
Scotch Pine, & White Pine
Aphids prefer balsam fir, evergreen pineBark Beetles prefer Coulter pines, Jeffery Pine, Juniper
trees, Monterey Pines, Ponderosa, and White Fir
Bark lice are common on Pines, particularly White Pine
 Needle ScalePreying Mantis (Mantids)SawflySpiders & Mites
pine needle scale common christmas tree pestsmantids common christmas tree pestssawflies common christmas tree pestsspiders common christmas tree pests
Frequently found on Douglas Fir, Norway spruce, and Scotch PinsMantids eggs can be found on any type of Christmas tree.Sawflies prefer Pine and Spruce trees.Often found on Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Spruce, and White Pines

Adelgids

These tiny bugs often resemble a light dusting of snow on the branches of the tree. They create clusters of white masses of a dense wooly waxlike substance as they feed on sap from trees. Adelgids only feed on conifers such as Douglas fir, larch, pine, and spruce.

Aphids

These are probably the most common.  They are usually black or brown, only a few millimeters in length, and slightly resemble ticks.  Aphids will eat the sap from your tree.

Bark Beetles

There are several types of beetle that can be found on trees commonly used for Christmas trees, the most widespread being the Bark Beetle. Normally these little bugs are small and brown and prefer to hide under the bark of the tree, as their name suggests.

They need a high moisture environment to reproduce and thrive, so as the tree dries out, so do they. They generally die off rather quickly on their own, with no intervention needed. However, if you can easily spot them on the tree, use a vacuum cleaner hose attachment to remove them.

Bark Lice

These are small winged bugs that are grey or brown in color.  They are not to be confused with head lice, as they will not feed on people.  Bark Lice are not parasitic (meaning they don’t bite) and actually eat mold and fungus that could be on your Christmas Tree.
These particular bugs need a high humidity environment to survive, so they normally die off rather quickly in most homes.

Needle Scale

This is noticeable by small white flecks on the needles of the tree.  These needles usually drop early or with a vigorous shake to the tree. They are actually eggs and if they hatch you will see tiny reddish bugs.

Preying Mantis

Generally speaking, it’s not the adults that you have to be concerned about on your Christmas tree, it’s the egg masses that could be attached. These egg masses warm and the perfect hatching conditions occur in your home, allowing the potential of having dozens of baby mantises running around your house.

b101 natural garden predator mantis nymphs
Organic Natural Pest Control for the Garden

Inspect your tree for frothy-looking egg masses. They can be detached by trimming off the small twig or branch and placed outdoors in your garden or greenhouse to hatch in the spring. They’re excellent for natural pest control when they’re outside.

Sawflies

Sawflies are black and yellow flies that are common on pine and spruce trees.  They will hatch from a brown cocoon usually found on the needles.  Sawflies are not stinging insects to be confused with yellow and black members of the wasp family.

Spiders and Mites

Mites and spiders tend to become quite active once a tree is brought into the house and begins to warm up. Luckily, they tend to remain on the tree, where they feed on insects and other bug eggs. These mites are harmless to people and pets and are not parasitic. You should, however, remove any bird nests from the tree as bird mites are parasitic (they do bite!).

The eight common Christmas tree pests we’ve shared are the most frequently encountered, if you spot an unusual bug in your tree, here’s a Christmas tree pest manual to figure out what it is.

Christmas Tree Bug Removal Options to Avoid

There are a few things that can be used to remove bugs from your Christmas tree that should be avoided for health and safety reasons.
The idea of bugs on your Christmas tree can have you running to the nearest store for a can of bug spray to fix the problem.  However, there are very good reasons to avoid any type of can bug spray on your tree indoors.

Aerosol Bug Spray

Most bug spray cans contain large amounts of highly flammable gas.  These gases are used in spray cans to force the insecticide out of the can and onto the bug, but it doesn’t just disappear once the pests are gone.

These gases can soak into your tree causing it to become extremely flammable.  A spark from a fireplace, a candle placed too near the tree, or even the buildup of heat from the lights used as decorations can cause your Christmas tree to burst into flames.

Bug Baits/Bug Poison

It is also unsafe to use any type of bait or poison placed at the base of the tree.  Holidays are when we gather with friends and family and during this chaotic time, it is hard to watch everything at once.

A curious pet or small children could be drawn to your decorated Christmas tree and accidentally get into any poison you have placed to kill the bugs.  It is simply too easy to become distracted during the holidays to risk leaving a poison by your Christmas tree.

Do artificial trees have bugs?

Yes.  Artificial Christmas trees can also carry bugs, but not usually the same ones associated with live Christmas trees.  Artificial trees are usually home to mice, roaches, or spiders.  These pests usually use the tree as a house instead of a food source and can be easily removed.  Simply set the tree up outside, give it a quick rinse with the water hose, and allow it to dry overnight.

It is estimated a standard Christmas tree may have as many as 25,000 bugs on it. Every year in the United States about 33 million Christmas trees are sold. So, in the U.S. there are up to 825 trillion bugs brought into homes. By following the simple tips we’ve shared above, hopefully, your home won’t be one of them.

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About Liss 4190 Articles
Melissa Burnell, known to her friends and fans as "Liss," grew up in Southern Maine, now residing in sunny South Carolina. As a busy Wife, Mother of two sons, an avid photographer, and self-employed entrepreneur, Liss understands the value of both time and money.

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