Though we've seen viral stories of infestations, it's not common at all.

By Andrea Beck
December 18, 2019

When we see those horror stories about hundreds of insects hitching a ride into someone's home on a Christmas tree, it's hard not to give our own tree a nervous glance or two. Then there's the terrifying statistic that as many as 25,000 bugs could be lurking among your fresh evergreen's boughs. But before you swear off real trees for good and opt for an artificial one instead, consider that your chances of having any creepy-crawlies crash your holiday festivities are actually pretty slim, according to the experts. And if you do see some, it probably won't become an invasion of epic proportions.

Credit: John Bessler

To find out how worried we should be about bug-filled evergreens, we checked in with the National Christmas Tree Association. According to its spokesman, Doug Hundley, the short answer is not at all. But what about that nightmare-inducing number of 25,000 bugs in a single tree? Hundley says that number is based on an entomologist’s estimation of the maximum number of insects that could inhabit a tree, and it includes microscopic creatures that you’d never notice on the tree or in your home.

In reality, you’re extremely unlikely to find any visible bugs on your Christmas tree, much less thousands of them. That's because most growers regularly keep an eye out for pests, scouting for ones that feed on the trees as well as those that have been known to nest in them, Hundley explains. If they see any, they treat infested trees right away to help keep their crop as bug-free as possible.

In addition to pest control during the growing process, many tree farms also have mechanical shakers that help dislodge any pests that might have found their way onto branches after harvest (and they’ll help get rid of loose needles, too). If you're still concerned, you can also give your tree a good shake outside your house. We recommend finding a buddy to lend some muscle if you can't comfortably lift the whole tree off the ground by yourself, and definitely pull on some gardening gloves first to avoid sap and scrapes. Then, place the whole tree over a white sheet, give it a few firm shakes, and watch for any insects that fall off.

Hundley also recommends using a strong spray from a garden hose to rinse off your tree before bringing it inside. This will help knock off any possible hitchhikers as well as loose dirt. And on the off-chance that any bugs do make it inside after all that, grab your vacuum and suck them up.

So go ahead and enjoy your real Christmas tree without fear of inviting in more guests than you had intended. Just remember to top off the water in the tree stand to keep the branches fresh for as long as possible. And once the holidays are over, you can recycle your tree and start dreaming of next year's yuletide celebrations.


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