Do You Have Christmas Tree "TICKS"?

December 9, 2016

Maybe one of these is your story...

"This past week we brought our Christmas tree inside and now we are finding a few ticks on the floor everyday."

"I squashed a tick I found near my Christmas tree and it left a blood stain on the carpet. I'm afraid it must have fed on one of us."

"My Christmas tree must have been covered in ticks because now they are all over my family room."

It's a fairly common belief held by people from Freeport to Florida, that Christmas trees are a big risk factor for encountering ticks. Some people say that the ticks must've laid eggs in the tree, and then the eggs hatched with the warmer temperatures inside the house. In some cases, people find literally hundreds of "ticks" crawling away from the Christmas tree a few days to a few weeks after bringing the tree inside. But if you're one of the unlucky people encountering Christmas tree "ticks" you're going to want to read this, and take a closer look at those "ticks", too.

When you do look more closely, we're pretty sure that what you'll see is a bug that's about 3-5 mm long and has 6 legs and a pair of antennae. That is NOT a tick! Ticks that size would have 8 legs, and ticks don't have antennae. Instead, what you've likely encountered is something called a Cinara aphid. These are pests particularly on Christmas trees grown in the field, and sometimes if the grower overlooks a local infestation and fails to treat the trees, these tick "look-alikes" make their way into the post-harvest Christmas tree market and into people's homes.

‍Image credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cinara_piceae.jpg

Seeing tiny specks of nature walking around in your house after you've brought nature indoors can be disconcerting. Our tip is to not squish them as their gut content (sap from the tree, not blood) turns red or purple and can stain the carpet and furniture. Instead, just carefully vacuum them up and dispose of them outside. These bugs are sucking insects, leaving the tree as it dries and they're no longer able to suck plant juices. Except for making you crazy worried, these aphids are not harmful to your health but they can be annoying. There's no worry about them infesting your house either; they won't be able to survive for long without a fresh pine or fir to feed on.

Cutting your own Christmas tree from the woods, or even walking around the edge of a Christmas tree farm might expose you to blacklegged (deer) ticks, so it would be TickSmart to do a quick tick check after your outing. Happy holidays!!