So, you need to get rid of the bugs on your Christmas tree.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Common Christmas tree bugs this year
- How to control and repel them naturally
- How to get rid of aphids, spiders, mites, and other bugs
- How to check new trees for pests
- And more!
Don’t let pests ruin your holidays!
If you have questions, post ’em as a comment and ask me (even if it’s the holidays).
Sound good? Let’s dive in and save your tree.
Do real Christmas trees have bugs?
When you bring home a fresh cut tree from the outdoors, you’re just asking for all the bugs living on the leaves to come into your home.
The number can be in the thousands.
This is just one or two little bugs.
There could be nymphs, adults, eggs, and larvae all hiding in the many spindles of each branch.
Christmas trees grow in the cold, and they’re cut down during the winter.
During transportation into your home where the temperatures are higher, bugs will snap out of hibernation or overwintering.
Bugs wake up and become active looking for food.
Eggs hatch. Adults start to mate.
Pests will fly off the tree and take over your home.
Because the pests mistake your home’s warm temperatures for spring or summer, this disturbs their body clocks and wakes them up.
A study from SaferBrand revealed that a single tree can have up to 25,000 pests!
A lot of them are microscopic, but there are also plenty of bugs that aren’t.
Read on to see how to control Christmas tree bugs.
Christmas tree bugs for 2020
Here are some of the most common pests you’ll see on Christmas trees for 2020.
Keep reading to learn how to get rid of them and control them.
Note that some methods use DIY spray, liquids, powders, and oils. This material is for educational purposes only.
Be careful not to cause a fire hazard by mixing these substances with electronics, lights, tree decor, and ornaments, or whatever else you have on your Christmas tree.
They may damage or destroy your tree decorations and can harm the tree as well. So be sure to do your research first before taking on any extermination methods.
Do your due diligence. Proceed at your own risk. You’re responsible for your own actions and consequences.
Now that we have that outta the way, let’s move on to the Christmas bugs we’ll see this year. And ways to get rid of them!
Ah, the common praying mantis.
These are huge bugs that you’ll find hiding in trees. Thankfully, they come off easily with a hose.
Spray down your tree and all the adults should come out. Watch out because they jump far!
Praying mantis eggs come in the hundreds, so you’ll want to check your tree for the eggs.
They can lay up to 400 eggs which will hatch in your home because of the warmer temperatures.
Praying mantises aren’t a common Christmas tree bug. But they have been seen to lay eggs on the tree.
The egg case looks like a white piece of a dirty cotton ball. You can prune and remove the egg sac from your tree if you spot one.
Don’t allow this sac to hatch in your home.
Hundreds of baby mantis nymphs will come off.
The egg sac must be destroyed before you set up the tree. They’re easy to see but you have to really move the branches to get a careful look.
But once you see a tan cotton ball, that’s the mantis sac on your Christmas tree.
Beetles are another common pest you’ll find eating up the precious needles of fresh trees.
They eat Monterey pines, Coulter pines, Jeffrey pines, and junipers. They also are known to feast on white fir Christmas trees.
You can see them with dark coloration on their backs and an ovular shape with an obvious head segment.
They’re about the size of a small bean and are very fast.
You can spot beetle damage by holes or sawdust in your Christmas tree trunk. Look for small beetles that crawl on the actual branches rather than the needles.
Beetles can be difficult to control, but there are some techniques you can use to get rid of them.
Aphids are a common pest found in all sorts of plants- from veggie plants to herbs to flowers.
Christmas trees are no exception.
Aphids are usually found on the lower parts of the tree hiding in the branches. Common Christmas trees that have aphids are balsam, fir, spruce, pine, evergreen, Fraser fir, and white fir.
Spider mites are another Christmas tree bug that you’ll never see. But they’re there.
These tiny mites are nearly microscopic in nature and are very difficult to see with the branches.
They attack Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, spruce, and white pine trees. If you notice your Christmas tree needles dropping off the tree, this may be because of spider mites.
The most common mite is the red spider mite. When squashed or killed, they leave behind a stain on the carpet, tree ornaments, or branches.
These are hard to control because they’re so tiny and Christmas trees have tons of places to hide.
To deal with them, you should consider spraying down the tree with vinegar or neem oil.
You can also make a soapy water concoction by adding 1 tsp of dish soap and 1 cup of water. Spray it on the branches that you suspect the mites to be eating.
Needles that fall off on various branches are common areas to check for mite damage. You can also check out this pest control guide for red spider mites for additional help!
Unlike spider mites, spiders are usually much easier to spot because of their size.
Spiders form webs in your tree because they naturally do this in the wild to catch prey.
Since the tree is fresh cut and live, they mistake it for an actual tree. Webs will be spun and you may even see flies or other bugs caught in them.
You can peel them from your tree by removing the webs after you kill the spider.
Since they can easily run away and hide, use protective equipment before attempting to remove the spider.
Some dangerous and poisonous species are ones you don’t want to mess with such as the poisonous recluse spider. The quickest way to remove a spider is to use a handheld vacuum.
Something like a shop vac or traditional vacuum with a hose attachment will do the job. You can vacuum the spider and the web to remove it from your tree without having to touch anything.
After you suck up the spider, spray some vinegar and water mix or dish soap to repel future spiders.
They tend to avoid these liquids so you can minimize more spiders from coming. If you notice spider eggs or baby spiders, you’ll want to apply extra dish soap to drown them.
Prune off any tree branches that are crawling with spiders.
You can use essential oils to also repel spiders.
Choose natural and organic ones like spearmint, peppermint, and citrus. Lemon and lime oils also work. And citronella is one of the proven ones. Cedar oil is another popular alternative.
All of these can help. Mix vacuuming and oils as a solid treatment plan. This will get rid of spiders in your Christmas tree.
Also known as the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, these are tiny Christmas tree pests that are white and have the appearance of snow.
If you bought your tree in a winter wonderland where it’s actually snowing, you may even mistake adelgids for speckles of snow!
Adelgids can blend with artificial snow spray or fake snow cotton. They’re commonly found in fir, white pine, Scotch pine, and Norway spruce trees. Adelgids can be controlled by using some home remedies.
This is a natural oil you can use to spray on your tree. It can help reduce the number of adelgids crawling on your needles and effectively kill them.
However, this oil can also harm and burn your Christmas tree, so consider diluting a mixture of it.
Just like the many other Christmas tree pests, you can use soapy water to kill adelgids.
The soap will drown the bugs and you can scrape them off with protective gloves.
You can remove entire branches that have a ton of adelgids.
You should be pruning your Christmas tree to keep it healthy and remove branches that are wilting anyway.
So consider taking off needles or branches that are covered with adelgids to get rid of them quickly.
Adelgids are considered a harmful pest because of the white fluffy secretions it leaves behind on hemlock trees.
They’ve become a terrible pest on the east coast of the US and have slowly been taking over more and more pines.
These bugs are often controlled by attracting natural predators that eat them like Sasajiscymnus tsugae and Laricobius nigrinus.
Of course, you can’t really use them in your house. So you may be best off to just ignore them until you throw the tree out.
They’re Not easy to get rid of any tree without professional attempts.
Christmas tree scale
Scale bugs are one of the most annoying Christmas tree bugs you can deal with.
They leave white specs all over your needles that turn into small red bugs after hatching.
Although they’re often confused with spider mites, scale bugs are a completely different pest. They’re commonly found on Scotch pine, Norway spruce, and douglas fir.
The best approach to treat scale is to use a mixture of neem oil applications and commercial pesticides.
They’re not easy to get rid of, so just like adelgids, you may want to avoid them until you throw your tree out.
You can reduce their destructive on your tree by using neem oil sprays, vinegar, and dish soap.
The sawfly is most noticeable because of the black cocoon that it forms on Christmas trees.
They pupate into cocoons and hatch into wasp-colored flies (black and yellow patterned colors). Sawflies are found on spruce and pine trees and will fly off the tree after developing their wings.
These will disembark and fly all over your home if the temperature and environment are precise.
You can control sawflies on your Christmas trees by pruning branches that have visible sawfly cocoons.
They’re easy to spot and you can remove them before they hatch. Throw them into a container full of soapy water to kill the unborn pests.
You can also use diatomaceous earth and sprinkle it on your branches.
Do this before you take the tree into your home because the process may be messy.
The DE will help kill the newborn sawflies that come out of the cocoon. Though, they may just fly off and never even touch the stuff.
How many bugs live on a Christmas tree?
There are 7 common pest species that are often found on Xmas trees:
- Praying mantises
- Christmas tree scale
- Bark beetles
- Spider mites
However, each of the species can have hundreds or even thousands of the same kind.
Sometimes they coexist on the same tree!
According to a research study, there can be up to 25,000 bugs living on your Christmas tree.
Now that’s scary.
You may even come across a nest of eggs that are just waiting to hatch.
Once you move the Christmas tree to a warm place in your home, the eggs hatch faster and incubation time cuts down.
This means you could have hundreds of newborn pests overnight and not even notice until they’re swarming your house. Yikes!
How do I get rid of bugs on my Christmas tree?
There are many different types of bugs that may be living in your tree.
We’ll cover the most common Christmas tree bugs so you can keep your tree smelling good, green, and not get pests all over the home.
This is why it’s important you get rid of as many pests as you can before you let them crawl, fly, or jump off the tree and infest your home!
Here are some home remedies you can use to get rid of bugs on your Christmas tree.
DIY Christmas tree bug spray
One Of the easiest and effective bug sprays you can make at home is dish soap. It’s cheap and very easy to use, not to mention safe for pets and humans at the same time.
Use a dish detergent that’s natural or organic if possible, as not all dish soaps are made the same
Here’s what you need:
- 1 tsp dish soap
- 1 cup water
- Spray bottle
How to make it:
- Mix the dish soap and water together in the spray bottle.
How to use it:
- Spray down branches and needles on your Christmas tree that you notice are browning or wilting.
- These are areas that you should check carefully for bug problems.
- Also, check for needles that are falling off or damaged.
- Spray a few spritzes directly to damaged needles even if you don’t see any visible bugs.
- You can also spray cocoons, eggs, nymphs, and adults easily with strong dish detergent.
- Feel free to adjust the concentration by adding more or less soap/water.
Will vinegar kill a Christmas tree?
White vinegar applied to a Christmas tree won’t harm the tree as long as you don’t overdo it.
The topical application only covers the needles and branches and should allow the tree to photosynthesize without any problems.
But if you cover the entire tree with vinegar, you could kill entire branches because of the acidity.
Just don’t go overboard. Use common sense. Spray only a few times per branch where you notice bug activity.
Use a hose
Spray down your entire tree outdoors before bringing it indoors.
This will actually blast off pests that are living and hiding in the tree needles and branches. You can drive out a lot of flying pests, nymphs, and adults with pure water.
Don’t use a weak hose- you want the nozzle on the “jet” or “stream” setting and spray down the entire tree. It’s also a good opportunity to apply dish soap or neem oil before you bring the tree in.
You can give your tree a quick hose down, apply DIY pesticides, and also prune off damaged or infected branches before you even step foot inside.
This will handle a lot of bugs quickly with minimal effort and should be one of the first things you do before you take the tree in.
This is a quick way to debug a Christmas tree.
Apply diatomaceous earth
This white powder comes straight from the earth and is an all-natural substance that has no odor.
DE is considered safe for pets and humans and also won’t kill your tree. However, you should still use protective equipment when handling it.
You can buy it at most hardware stores, pool supply stores, or some department stores.
Just get pure food-grade DE without any synthetics or chemicals. Avoid any additives or colorations.
Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth on the tree. Get some between the branches, spindles, and around the cut at the stump.
You can apply DE in a circle around the plant once you settle it into a Christmas tree stand.
This will prevent any pests from crawling up the tree since the fresh scent may attract bugs that were already in your home.
Every so often, sprinkle DE on the branches. Vacuum up the excess that falls onto the floor.
It’s best to use it first when you buy the tree. Apply the DE outdoors and shake the tree to get most of the loose powder off.
This will minimize a lot of it from getting onto your carpet or floors.
When you need to apply more, you can layout newspaper to catch the excess. Reapply every other week.
Use neem oil
Neem oil is another handy essential oil you can use to kill many different bugs that live on trees.
You can use it as soon as you take your tree home. Spray it on a single branch and see it if it turns color. If not, you’re safe to spray the entire tree with the oil.
Neem oil can kill all sorts of pests in nymph and adult forms. It can even kill unhatched eggs!
Be wary that neem oil is not safe for all pets and use it as directed. It also leaves a residue that provides a lasting effect that should be good until after Christmas.
You can always spray additional sprays if needed.
Neem oil is organic and is an easy way to get rid of bugs on your Christmas tree. It’s also safe for Christmas trees and one of the only things you can use to spray a Christmas tree for bugs.
Don’t use bug spray that’s store-bought as this can kill the tree and also leave behind nasty residues.
Can you spray a Christmas tree for bugs?
Yes, you can spray it for pests.
But you should avoid using commercial bug sprays and use a natural DIY Christmas tree bug spray such as vinegar, neem oil, or soapy water.
You can spray any of these on your tree to kill bugs.
Can you spray a Christmas tree with bug spray?
You should never spray your fresh cut tree with bug spray.
Store-bought commercial brands are dangerous for live trees and may harm the needles or branches.
They’ll also leave behind dangerous chemical residues that’ll stink up your living room and can pose a threat for your pets and kids. Avoid using bug spray.
Unless you get organic or natural kinds. Use as directed and try calling the hotline to see if you can use it on a Christmas tree.
How to check a Christmas tree for bugs
There are simple steps you can take to make sure you get a pest-free tree- or at least one with minimal bugs.
You’ll want to do the following:
Put on a pair of garden gloves and carefully check the branches by moving them apart.
Bigger Christmas trees will have more bugs. Move the branches and check the needles in damaged areas. See if you can find any moving or visible bugs.
Also, check for nymphs and eggs. Flying pests could fly away right when you approach. If you see a flying bug, you know the tree possibly has eggs already. Don’t buy it.
Shake the tree
Shake the tree outdoors and many loose pests will fall off.
You’ll also get rid of a bunch of dirty tree needles which may force some eggs and nymphs to dislodge.
You can also use a piece of white construction paper or newspaper to catch the bugs.
This way you see just how many bugs there are on a Christmas tree. Don’t be surprised!
Quarantine the tree
After you bring a tree home, put it in your greenhouse or garage for a few days.
Check for bugs every day and also see if you notice tree damage. You’ll want to see needles or branches turning.
These are signs of pest infestations that you’ll want to take a closer look at.
How to keep bugs off your Christmas tree
Here are some tips to keep your tree pest free. They’re best used specifically in combination with the pest you’re dealing with.
Apply pest repellent
Use diatomaceous earth or some other repellent to keep bugs from crawling onto your Christmas tree that was already in your home.
Make some DIY bug spray for your Christmas tree such as neem oil or soapy water.
Spray it on a schedule. This will kill many of the pests and their eggs.
Keep a pruning schedule
Remove damaged branches right after you notice them.
They might have bugs eating them or will attract more pests. Don’t ignore them as this is a huge hint that your tree has bugs.
Vacuum visible pests
If you notice bugs, vacuum or remove them ASAP.
Don’t let them get away because they may mate or deposit eggs and continue the life cycle.
You’ll want to remove them to break the off chance of more eggs coming out this season.
Here are some resources and references you may find useful:
- Pests on Cut Christmas Trees – NC Christmas Tree
- Christmas tree pests and weeds – Wikipedia
- Christmas Tree Pest Manual – CUES
Did you get rid of the Christmas tree bugs?
That’s all I have for you.
By now, you should have everything you need to get started. You can exterminate, repel, and prevent bugs from eating up your Christmas tree and possibly ruining Christmas!
Just be patient and persistent.
Questions? Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Please consider telling a friend that may benefit from this page =]!
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.