If you like the smell and appearance of a live Christmas tree, Iowa State University entomologist Laura Jesse says it may come with a little something extra. “Most people will get nothing,” she says, “but if you’re one of the lucky ones, you might get a few insects coming in with your Christmas tree.”
Jesse admits an entomologist might be the only one to take that view of the guest bugs, but she says since trees are grown outdoors they’re likely to have outdoor extras like dust or bugs, but when they’re brought inside and the dormant insects become active, they’re mostly small ones and she says most people don’t even notice them at all.
She explains sometimes the tree comes with tiny eggs that were laid back in autumn by a spider. “They think it’s spring, the poor things,” Jesse says. “They don’t want to hatch in your house.” But when they emerge to find themselves in a house, which is too hot and dry for them, she says they usually die and dry out pretty quickly.
Some people recommend a brisk shake to remove any dead needles or other debris before bringing a tree into the house, and Jesse says that’s enough. She recommends you not use any bug spray, since it’s not wise to spray a tree with insecticide and then bring it into your home and have the family gathering around it. She’s even heard that people worry about ticks from a Christmas tree, but says the idea that ticks drop onto people from trees is a long-held misconception and they’d never be found in a tree of any kind.
“I guess if it’s something that going to absolutely send you through the roof if an insect climbs off the tree,” she adds, you can always get an artificial tree and use it again every year. She says as far as the likelihood of insect hitchhikers, there won’t be much difference between a farm-raised tree, one shipped in from a state far away on a truck, or one you choose and cut yourself from a local tree farm.