Christmas Tree Pests

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Pests can hitch a ride on gifts, greens

Pest management professionals know from experience that Christmas is a time when trees and gifts that arrive by delivery can also include a variety of pest insects that can be easily avoided.

"All those packing boxes and cartons that bring Christmas gifts can also include a variety of insects and their eggs," says Leonard Douglen, executive director of the New York Pest Management Association. "Happily, people can avoid having them infest one's home or apartment with relative ease."

In particular, says Douglen, gifts sent from warehouses in warm, moist climates where pests tend to thrive often include them in the packaging.

"Cardboard is a good insulator for insect pests," says Douglen. Even if the weather outside is cold, this kind of packaging provides enough warmth for their survival. Some insects, like bedbugs, can survive for over a month without food. Others, like cockroaches, can dine on the glue in the boxes.

Those foam peanuts make a comfy place for insects that include cockroaches, moths, beetles, spiders, and bedbugs. They are places where not only the adults can live, but they also can lay eggs in the boxes.

One favorite gift, exotic plants from tropical places, should be inspected carefully as pest management professionals know they often include insects when unwrapped and put on display.

"In general, one good way to avoid importing insect pests is to open gift boxes outside or, if you have one, in your garage. In an apartment, keep gift boxes isolated and, once the boxes are unpacked and broken down, remove them."

Douglen recommends keeping unopened boxes sealed in a plastic bag because insects cannot survive under such conditions.

What to look for? Insect eggs and immature stages of insects, larvae, resemble tiny seeds. "Pest management professionals are trained to identify these things, but the public is not likely to spot them. Even so, insects like praying mantis and even spiders that arrive in a package will die because they feed on other insects that are unavailable in the winter months.

Christmas trees, freshly cut, do not represent a serious problem so far as insects are concerned. "Christmas tree insects can include mites, and spiders," says Douglen, "but most remain with the tree and they represent a very low risk factor."

Douglen strongly advises against using an aerosol spray to kill any potential insects before setting up a Christmas tree.

For those concerned about importing any insects with their tree, Douglen says they should be left on the tree until it is removed. They are not likely to migrate and, if some do, they can be easily removed with a vacuum cleaner from ceilings, walls, or windows. "They are not likely to survive the short stay."

A variety of insects can be found on Christmas trees. Among them are aphids, bark beetles, mites, and spiders, among others.

"By taking easy steps and being watchful for the presence of insects or their eggs in packages or on a tree, anyone can ensure that the holiday is not spoiled by these uninvited invaders," says Douglen.

Source: Staten Island Advance

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