This colorful time of year when the chill in the air, everything orange and the ghostly lunatic fringe of Halloween and the warm, woody and smoky tones of a Thanksgiving home and hearth slowly surrender to the rich and dazzling splendor of the Christmas season.
Each holiday in its turn inspires Pittsburgh homeowners to decorate their houses, yards and lawns with items that reflect the joy and beauty the season.
Sometimes, however, just as Shakespeare warned, the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go astray.
Homeowners in the fall often adorn their homes and yards with a myriad of colorful and festive decorations.
Smiling pumpkins, scary lighting, looming scarecrows and floating ghosts placed strategically around yards coupled with gourds, and fake spider webs in front windows stimulate the imagination.
In reality. however, what lurks below that which is visible can be its own little horror tale.
All organic items used for decoration are potential meals for insects and rodents.
A carved pumpkin is a nice snack for a mouse and a comfortable nesting place as well. Rodents also attract flies.
Hay bales and corn stalks are perfect hiding places and sources of nourishment for a host of unpleasant critters.
While indoor and outdoor decor is meant to be attractive, the Pittsburgh homeowner is not expecting to welcome guests that reflect that old Confucian adage about some visitors bringing pleasure when they arrive and others when they leave.
In this case, it is not a demanding or obnoxious aunt or uncle that is certain to put a damper on holiday spirits, but rather a host of all kinds of bugs that hitch rides on live Christmas trees and other floral and fauna, and thrive amid the lovely smell of pine, presents, tinsel and ornaments.
The pest-control and pest-management specialists at Pestco often receive frantic calls at this joyous time year, with cries of: “ Help! I’ve got thousands of tiny bugs crawling on my Christmas tree!”
This is more common than any homeowner might imagine. Bringing in a Christmas tree that has been outside in the bitter cold into a space that is at room temperature is a tenuous situation because the bugs that lay hidden inside the tree trunk emerge for party time because spring is here, at least for them.
Bringing wreaths and natural plants from the yard into a home to create a natural decor, often becomes a vehicle for transport inside for many creepy crawlies.
Many handmade and attractive wooden lawn reindeer and manger scenes are serious hotspots for wood-boring beetle infestations.
These critters leave piles of sawdust in their wake unless the wood is kiln dried, which is usually not the case with hand made ornaments.
Some distress calls received by our team members include complaints about moths brazenly roaming amid Christmas tree ornaments.
The culprit here is usually the Indian Meal Moth that loves popcorn, pastas rice and chocolate.
So stop using these edibles for tree decorations as many do. (This means you.)
Which Insects Are Attracted To Holiday Decorations?
According to Chad Gore, Ph.D., an entomologist and Market Technical Director with a leading east control company, the most common bugs that could be living in your Christmas tree are the following:
These black or brown little critters love to suck the sap and life out of that lovely tree you just brought into your home.
They resemble ticks, but they have six legs and are usually a few millimeters in length.
You may be among many who have never even heard of these tiny yellow or purple bugs and the coating of wool-like wax they produce that resembles a little dusting of snow on your tree (usually around the buds needle bases).
Alas, for it is not snow, but rather the eggs of the insects that infest the needles of the tree, which causes them to fall off early.
If they hatch, small red bugs will soon emerge.
Psocoptera Or Bark Beetles
About the size of a grain of rice, these small winged insects are red, brown or black in color.
Their preferred source of food is mold or fungi found on stressed trees. They are typically brown or gray in color, and it is possible that they can infest a tree before it is harvested.
Bark beetles prefer moist wood, and as such, do not threaten home structures, such as molding and furniture.
Also known as booklice, bark lice or bark flies, these small, winged soft-bodied insects are not like typical lice, which feed on or bite humans.
Usually white, gray or brown in color, their preferred habitat is outdoors where they are often found upon tree bark, leaves, shrubs, and under stones. Christmas trees can be very susceptible as well.
They feed upon fungi, lichen, pollen, decaying plants and other organic material. One inside homes, however, they quickly die from temperature gradations.
Pine needle scales are the most common scale insect found on Christmas trees.
They overwinter as eggs under a mother scale’s cover, but often emerge in large numbers as tiny, red crawlers when a Christmas tree is brought inside.
These insects are often covered by a waxy coating and do not move.
Adult females, which are found on pine needles, usually measure about 1/8 inch long. If crawlers appear, our pest-control and pest management specialists at Pestco recommend wiping them up with a damp towel
While the Pittsburgh home owner might not think spiders would seek out Christmas trees, they would be mistaken.
They do because all the above-mentioned bugs serve as abundant food sources.
Despite this, these usually outdoor spider species cannot survive for too long after exposure to warmer temperatures.
The Spotted Lanternfly
Since being discovered in 2014, this incredibly invasive pest has rapidly spread across Pennsylvania and neighboring states.
If a Christmas street is purchased form a known area where these flies have been seen, there is a chance that it might be infected.
Check carefully for egg masses and inspect the branches and trunk of the tree for crusty, grayish smears.
If found, scrape them off into a plastic bag with rubbing alcohol and dispose of them. To be extra careful, when it is time, dispose of the tree via a community recycling initiative.
No homeowner should be turned off from buying a real tree because of these pests. For the who love the aroma of pine and the idea of a real tree, there is no substitute. Besides, you can’t really win here because artificial trees can also house unwanted pests.
The teeth of rodents never stop growing, which is why they love chew things, including wood, boxes, wires and just about anything they can get their hands on.
A Few Pittsburgh Holiday Pest Control Tips
Below are some tips from our pest-control and pest-management experts that can help reduce the chances that you might be sharing your holidays with a myriad of unwanted guests.
Avoid Use Of Chemical Insect Repellents
Chemical products, especially OTC aerosol sprays, shouldn’t be used as a means for pest-control because they are flammable and not labeled for indoor use. Whatever you do or choose not to do, never spray on a Christmas tree. The heat emanating from tree lights can be a source of fire.
Inspect The Tree Carefully Before Purchase
Its helpful to bring a flashlight along because it make it easier to spot potential insects or their eggs that are likely to be on the trunk of the tree if they are there at all.
Shake The Selected Tree
Many places will have a mechanical tree shaker, but if they don’t, shake the tree vigorously before bringing it into the car or house (or both).
Inspect It Again Before Bringing It Inside The Home
Better be safe than sorry. A bug or two wont be a problem because they can’t live long indoors. But more than a few stragglers is a sign that cannot be ignored and perhaps in that case, setting it up outside might be a better solution (and buy another for inside).
Prepare the Display Area
Before buying live Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations, such as pumpkins and gourds, prepare your porch and yard by removing fallen leaves and debris. Bag up the leaves, which can serve as shelters for many pests and trim back plants and trees, especially any limbs that appear damaged or diseased. Clear out your gutters as well.
Remove Items That Attract Pests
Any type of residual food items should be removed from yards and porches before holiday decorations are displayed. Food containers or feeders can be problematic as any birdseed knocked onto the ground can attract rodents. There also should never be any standing water anywhere around a home.
Protect Your Pumpkins
Everyone loves a porch pumpkin, but a carved one can easily fall prey to a pest infestation.
This can be avoided by using a citronella candle, the scent of which is known to deters pests. Consider an artificial light as direct sunlight quickens decomposition.
You can move the pumpkin into a shady spot on the porch and store it in the fridge overnight AFTER checking for bugs.
Don’t String Lights Between Your House And Trees Or Shrubs
Such an arrangement serve as a means for rodents, such as rats or squirrels, to jump from the trees onto (and potentially into) your home.
Treat Wreathes With An Insecticide Before Hanging Them Up
This will eliminate any stowaways and insure that insects are not part of the porch decor.
Never Use Edibles On Wreaths And Other Decorations.
Never decorate with edible treats. Popcorn or candies as part of the holiday décor can be a magnet for creepy crawlies . Ants will not be able to resist that expensive wreath and will devour it upon discovery.
Change Porch Lighting
By altering lighting effects on a porch, homeowners can detract bugs and protect holiday decor items.items. Yellow lighting, for example, does not attract pests.
Consider Year Round Pest Control
Pittsburgh homeowners can achieve satisfaction in never having to worry about invading pests by using our services at Pestco Professional Services!
Regular treatments can insure that both property and holiday decorations will always be safe from infestations.
Plagued with an infestation of creepy crawlies at holiday time? Call Pestco today. We’re here to help!
Photo Credits: Pixabay