Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year… but it’s also a time when you can invite unwelcome guests into your home. All of those Christmas decorations have been sitting in storage all year, serving as a hiding place for any number of nasty pests. Bringing a live tree that’s been sitting out in mother nature for a while is bound to have some strings… or webs…. attached.
Preparing your home for the most wonderful time of the year means so much more than just dusting off those old boxes full of decorations. It involves preventing pests from ruining your holiday season. Fortunately, we are here to help. Follow our tips and you will be well on your way to protecting your home from invaders!
What Types of Bugs Live in a Christmas Tree?
Two of the most common Florida pests that will hide out in a Christmas tree are aphids and spiders. These insects lay eggs during the summer and fall months, lying dormant in the winter. However, when you bring them into a nice, warm and cozy home then they can hatch. This usually goes completely undetected because they are so small.
A little history lesson side note: this issue is one of the things that actually led to the holiday tradition of putting decorations on the Christmas tree. This practice dates back to the Middle Ages! For instance, ladybugs are natural predators of aphids. Many farmers decorated with ladybugs and prayed for help with their aphids so that their crops would not be destroyed. Over time, the practice carried over into decorations.
But you’re here to learn some practical ways to prevent this problem. So let’s dive in.
Getting Rid of Unwelcome Guests on your Christmas Tree
Don’t let the thought of your home being infested ruin the holiday spirit! There are a number of ways that you can prevent this from becoming an issue all while still enjoying the season to its fullest.
One important fact worth noting is that most insects that inhabit your Christmas tree will not be able to survive in your home for long, but it still never hurts to be cautious. In fact, in most cases you will find that fake trees tend to have the worst problems because they are stored in garages or attics through the entire year. Let’s look at some of the ways that we can protect our homes during the holiday season.
When Dealing with Real Trees
Christmas trees can be the home to many insects, including mites and spiders. These insects tend to hibernate in the tree during the winter months, just waiting for the chance to spring into action when the climate warms up. Unfortunately, the inside of your home could prompt an early return.
These insects are then drawn to other sources of light including fixtures and windows. The best bet here is to practice prevention. Here are some tips:
- Shake tree vigorously before bringing it inside. Not only will this get rid of those loose needles, but it can remove a large amount of bugs than might be clinging to the wood.
- Always visually inspect the top of the tree trunk for insects like spiders or roaches.
- Inspect the tree regularly for spider webs.
- Make sure your home is warm because bugs love the colder climate so they will either die or they will find their way back outside.
It’s important that you do not spray your tree with insecticides. These sprays are usually flammable and your decorations could potentially cause them to ignite.
When Dealing with Artificial Trees
Artificial trees are a bit trickier because they are usually stored for 10 months before they are taken out again. This creates a haven for bugs to lay eggs every year and also to build nests. Here are some tips for preventing infestations when using an artificial tree:
- Storing your artificial tree inside of an airtight container is the best way to prevent infestations. Simply put, bugs cannot get into these containers while the tree if in storage.
- Always unpack your tree outside and shake it vigorously to make sure there are no bugs or pests living in the tree.
- Vacuum each branch as you are unpacking the tree.
- Visually inspect the branches and the tree trunk before you set your tree up inside.
These Holiday Traditions can Attract Pests
Let’s look at some of the holiday traditions that can actually invite pests into your home. I am not saying that you have to completely change the way you celebrate the holidays but make sure that you keep a close eye on the surrounding area when you follow any of these traditions.
Gingerbread Houses: Houses made of sweets is the dream of all bugs! They get food and shelter all in one cute piece of art! Gingerbread houses are okay as long as you keep an eye on the surrounding area. You should also put them away every night in an airtight container.
Hanging Garland: This practice is rooted in tradition and these decorations can serve as a hiding place for pests. Make sure you clean these every day to prevent bugs from nesting inside of them.
Floral Displays: Some types of floral displays can attract all sorts of insects into your home. Again, a visual inspection every day will prevent bugs from nesting.
Strings of Popcorn: This is probably the most popular homemade decoration during the holidays. Needless to say that popcorn is a food source for pests but there is a way to keep them away. Spray the decoration with adhesive once it has been strung.
Leaving Cookies Out for Santa: Okay so this one is not too bad as long as you only leave them out for a few hours. Place them just before bed and then clean up the crumbs first thing on Christmas morning.
Next Step is to Protect your Home from Decorations
This is definitely the most wonderful time of the year and now we’ve laid out the groundwork for protection against pests gaining entry via the Christmas tree, so now let’s move onto those holiday decorations.
The holidays are always full of surprises. You might get a visit from Grandma even though she told you that she wouldn’t be able to make it. You might get a gift from your significant other even though they had told you that you’d never be able to get it. There are always surprises during the holidays. You do not want the surprise of an infestation of roaches finding their way into your home, creating a brand new roach holiday.
The problem is that we store our Christmas decorations in dark, undisturbed areas where pests love to hide. So we’re going to look at ways to prevent these decorations from inviting unwelcome guests into your nice cozy warm home.
As we have already seen, if you’re planning to bring in live foliage into your home then you need to thoroughly shake it beforehand. But the Christmas tree is not the only foliage that you might be using for decorations. Wreaths are sometimes made using real plants so it’s important that you take the right precautions to keep insects from infesting your home. Just like with the Christmas tree, the warmth of your home can trigger spring-like responses from these pests.
As far as artificial wreaths are concerned, make sure that you vacuum it before you hang it in your home. Then I encourage you to store it in an airtight container before storing it away.
Decorations in Boxes
The first step is to visually inspect the boxes where your decorations are being stored. Boxes provide a safe haven for insects to hide out through the year so they can lead to infestations. The last thing you want is to open a box in your living room only to see several roaches scurry out of the box and into your walls! Open up your decorations outside and inspect the inside of the boxes for droppings or spider webs.
Stockings are one of the finest parts of the holidays. A beautifully decorated pouch that is crammed full of goodies. What’s not to love? These fabric decorations can actually house certain species of pests so it’s best to wash them before you decorate your home with them.
Hard Decorations and Christmas Ornaments
Use alcohol sanitary wipes to clean all hard objects like Christmas ornaments before hanging them in your home. Insects could potentially lay eggs on these surfaces that you cannot see. It’s better safe than sorry.
Finally, we come to the most vulnerable decoration in your storage area. Christmas lights are one of the most common places for pests to hide out during the months leading up to the holidays. Again, always open these boxes outside to make sure there are no pests hiding away. With exterior lights, you will need to visually inspect them before placing them back into storage.
Remember that if you do accidentally let a few pests into your home during the holidays, then it might be a good idea to bring in a professional exterminator as quickly as possible. You don’t want to start out your year on such a bad note!
Prevention is the Key to Controlling Pests
As with all problems that life throws our way, the best thing we can do is practice prevention. There are certain steps that you can take to help keep your Christmas decorations from becoming a safe haven for insects and other pests. In fact, did you know that sometimes mice can even hide in these decorations? I’ve heard stories about people going through their decorations only to find a nest of these vile creatures.
This section is going to walk you through several preventative measures that you can take to help prevent this from happening to you. The holiday season should be enjoyable without the burden of pests. If you follow these steps when putting away your decorations, then you will have nothing to worry about when the holidays roll around again.
Invest in Plastic Storage Bins
The first step in prevention is to invest in plastic storage bins to store your decorations. This is a sure way to prevent pests from finding their way into your decorations. Cardboard boxes are not good enough. In fact, they will actually attract pests. If you don’t have plastic containers, then invest in some. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to pest control. The truth is that investing in plastic, airtight containers is less than if you were to be forced to hire an exterminator.
Visually inspect each Christmas ornament as you remove it from the tree. You are looking for signs of any pest activity – spider webs, mouse droppings, and tiny chew marks are all signs of infestation. Dispose of any damaged ornaments while using a sanitary alcohol wipe to clean the rest. Place them into an airtight, plastic container for storage.
Storing Away Your Artificial Tree
Again, you should store your tree in an airtight plastic container. Cardboard tends to attract pests while plastic will deter them. Given enough time, a cardboard box will also deteriorate. Even when storing the tree in an airtight container, you should still vacuum and visually inspect the tree when you remove it the following year.
Packing Away Fabrics
I encourage you to wash all linens and fabrics before placing them into storage. Spills, crumbs, and other food particles can stale and small bad over time. Even if you are storing these fabrics in an airtight plastic container, you should wash them before tucking them away for the year. You might even place them into a storage bag to prevent mildew and mold that might occur even in a larger plastic container.
You should also inspect your storage area throughout the year to check for signs of any pest activity. As always, if you notice activity then it’s a good idea to contact an exterminator as quickly as possible. Even if a small spider web or a single mouse dropping doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can become a major issue if you leave it unaddressed.
The key to pest control is prevention. Take the proper steps and enjoy the holiday season!