Ticks on your Christmas tree?

pine-tree

THOSE AREN’T TICKS ON YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE

By Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Picking out the perfect, fresh-cut Christmas tree is an important holiday task.

Every family member has a specific requirement. “It has to be a certain species.” “It has to be a specific height and shape.” And, of course, “It has to smell great.”

So, a decision is made. The perfect tree is toted home, put up and beautifully decorated. A week later, mom shrieks, “There are ticks all over the living room!”

Don’t panic. Upon inspection, you will discover that the bugs coming from your “perfect” Christmas tree are Cinara aphids. Cinara are a group of several species of large brown or black aphids that feed on conifers including all pines, spruces and firs. When Christmas trees are cut at the farm and bundled for shipment, aphids get trapped. With warmer temperatures indoors, aphids become active. Infestations may also arise from overwintering eggs that hatch. As the tree dries out, the aphids crawl from the tree into the rest of the house.

No worries. Cinara aphids only feed on conifers, so they pose no threat to other plants. They are not a danger to people or pets either. But don’t get rid of them by smashing them. You may be left with a nasty purple stain to have to clean up. Instead, pull out the vacuum and suck them up.

So, if you are one of those people still shopping for the “perfect” tree, add a preemptive strike to your decorating procedure. Unbundle and shake, shake, shake that tree outside before bringing it in.

Then the only shrieking will be when mom opens the fabulous present you gave her.

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