About this time of year, especially after Thanksgiving when people start buying their Christmas trees, some will invariably be inundated with critters falling out of their tree. When this happens, they will call their pest control service provider or their county extension office claiming that there are ticks coming out of their just bought tree. In fact what they are seeing are what are known as conifer aphids. While they superficially resemble ticks in their somewhat round shape, they have SIX legs while ticks have eight legs.
As the name implies, conifer aphids are found on conifers where they feed on the needles. They are in the genus Cinara and they will often overwinter in their host tree, which may be a Fraser fir, white pine, or cedar. Many times it may be just one tree among hundreds that is infested and the grower is not even aware of it. If overlooked when the tree was (1) harvested and (2) if it happen to be the tree that you bought for the holidays, and (3) if it is setup in the warmth of your home, the tree begins to dry out forcing the aphids to seek a more succulent food source. Consequently, the aphids begin to crawl out of the tree. In addition, the warmth of a home tricks them into acting like spring has come. They really become noticeable when several hundred aphids suddenly make an appearance on your carpets and walls.
The North Carolina Christmas Growers recommends several do’s and don’ts one should follow with a cut tree prior to bringing into your home or after it is brought inside.
a. Vigorously shake the tree before bringing it in or setting up.
b. Vacuum pests up with an attachment without a beater brush.
c. Remove the tree from the house.
d. Return the tree to where it was bought. Oftentimes the grower may replace it at
e. Don’t crush the Cinara aphids or other pests on the carpets or walls. They will leave
f. Don’t spray your house with an insecticide.
g. Don’t worry about the ornaments. The insects won’t stay on them.
h. Don’t give up on a real tree. This may never happen to you again.