Ahhh, logs burning in a fireplace, family pet napping, decorations shining on a live Christmas tree in the corner.
Sounds like a perfect holiday season evening. But is it? Or is it a scene for unwanted guests to inflict chaos in an otherwise peaceful setting?
These guests are insects that can enter homes through firewood, Christmas trees, or even pets. Clemson Cooperative Extension Service entomologist Eric Benson said one way to cut down on the number of these uninvited guests is to avoid storing firewood inside.
“Insects that use wood as food or a resting place will emerge indoors and worry many people,” Benson said. “Insects such as long-horned beetles, other wood-boring beetles, wasps, some moths and several other small insects may fly around indoors and be attracted to lights and windows.”
Don’t fret if you see these insects inside your home. Benson said they generally are just nuisance pests coming from the firewood.
“They should not infest any furniture or structural wood in a home,” he said.
Firewood can harbor many species of pests, some of which are on the outside of the wood and others that have bored or chewed their way inside. Clemson Cooperative Extension forest health specialist David Coyle reminds people to obtain firewood locally whenever possible.
“If you do have to purchase firewood, make sure it has been heat-treated,” Coyle said. “Moving firewood long distances is one of the most common ways invasive forest pests get moved from place to place.”
Insects also can be found in live Christmas trees. Cinara aphids, which are very large brown aphids, can often be brought indoors on trees. Even though they are plant feeders, many people think Cinara aphids are ticks and can cause great concern when several hundred are seen walking around a holiday tree. To help ensure this doesn’t happen to you, Benson has some tips.
“Inspect Christmas trees carefully,” Benson said. “If any sooty mold or honeydew is observed, do not buy the tree. These are indications of aphids or scale infestations and, with them, you can get ladybeetles.”
Other insects, typically outdoor nesters or plant feeders, may be brought into homes on potted plants moved indoors to avoid freezing temperatures outside. Sometimes fire ants or Argentine ants nesting in outdoor pots get inside homes this way.
As a final cool-weather precaution, Benson said it is important to make sure pets are free of fleas. If appropriate, bathe and treat pets before bringing them inside.
“Check with your veterinarian for the best treatments for your pet,” he said.
To make sure there are no unusual insect guests coming inside over the holiday, Benson reminds folks to check for and remove insects before bringing firewood or Christmas trees inside. If insects are found once trees or firewood are brought inside, bring them back outside and remove any insects detected or vacuum or sweep them up. If found early, many insects can be removed without using insecticides or other chemical treatments.