5 Bugs That Might Be Hiding in Your Christmas Tree—and How to Check for Pests Before You Bring It Inside

Plus, learn how to eliminate these bugs if they do make their way into your cozy abode.

snow frosted pine trees in the winter
Photo: 2ndLookGraphics/Getty

Everyone loves a surprise under the Christmas tree. But a surprise in the pine? Not so much. Unfortunately, if you opt for a live tree, there is always the possibility that you'll find bugs living on its branches.

This is because many insects tend to feed on or overwinter in pine trees, says Michael Skvarla, the assistant research professor of arthropod identification at Penn State University. The good news is that Christmas tree bugs are rare. And unlike common household pests such as ants and cockroaches, the bugs living in your Christmas tree are ill-equipped to survive life indoors, where the air tends to be too warm and dry.

Thankfully, bugs that live in evergreens also don't pose a threat to you or your home. "These particular bugs aren't going to bite you or destroy structures," says Skvarla. "But even so, most people don't want bugs crawling out of the Christmas tree." We'd have to agree. This is what you should know if you'd like to avoid this particular brand of nightmare before Christmas.

christmas tree with star ornament
Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty

Common Christmas Tree Bugs

The majority of Christmas trees do not have bugs, assures Skvarla. However, there are some insects that have been known to hitchhike home.

Scale Insects

Pine bark adelgids, aphids, psocids, and scale insects are some of the most common bugs that hide in evergreen branches. According to the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, these bugs like to feed on the fluids from the tree. However, the insects quickly die once the tree is brought indoors.

Bark Beetles

It's also possible that bark beetles have taken up residence in your tree's trunk. Although they bore into the wood of trees, they're not interested in your furniture or house, as this wood is too dry.

Praying Mantis

Sometimes, a tree will host praying mantis egg sacks. Once inside a warm house, the eggs may think it's spring and begin to hatch. Although a swarm of mini praying mantises may be alarming, there's no cause for concern—they'll quickly die (and may even eat each other).

Mites and Parasites

Trees with nests may harbor bird mites and parasites, some of which can be harmful to humans. Before bringing your tree inside, remove any nests, charming as they may be.


While unlikely, it's possible that your tree has spiders. Tree-dwelling spiders aren't dangerous to humans or pets, assures Skvarla, and the tiny intruders will probably go unnoticed before dying off. Two of the most dangerous spiders in North America, the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse, don't live in trees. (That said, they do live in houses, so be careful when rummaging through the attic for your Christmas lights.)

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How to Avoid Christmas Trees With Bugs

There are some easy steps you can take to prevent bringing pests home with your pine.

  1. First, inspect the tree while still at the lot. If there are any bird nests, remove them.
  2. Next, look for any white flocking on the branches and needles. This could be a sign of adelgids, which secrete waxy filaments. If you notice any light brown, walnut-sized masses, these are likely praying mantis egg sacs. Small holes in the trunk and very fine sawdust could be a sign of bark beetles.

Whether your tree shows signs of insects or not, it doesn't hurt to give it a good, hard shake to scare off any potential pests. "Many Christmas tree lots have shakers, which should do a pretty good job of getting rid of any bugs," says Skvarla. "Or just shake it yourself before you bring it inside."

How to Treat an Infestation

If you're one of the unlucky few who winds up with Christmas tree bugs, don't despair—most tree insects should die off quickly once moved indoors. Newly hatched bugs will die in the cold, and a vigorous shake will eliminate others, says Skvarla. If you notice insects collecting on the ceiling or window, remove them with a vacuum cleaner.

Avoid Inspect Sprays

It's important to never use an aerosol pesticide on your tree. Insect sprays are highly flammable and generally shouldn't be used indoors, especially when the windows are closed.

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