What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Lots of bugs on Christmas tree
Location: Dallas, Texas – but could have been imported!
January 3, 2011 6:31 pm
Hi bugman! I was very sad that my husband wanted me to take down the Christmas tree. But now I am very glad he did! As we were removing ornaments and lights, we discovered the tree was positively CRAWLING with these bugs. We threw the tree over our balcony so as not to drag it through the house, and vacuumed thoroughly, just in case. Sorry for the blurry photo – we were in a hurry to take the image and get it out of the house.
That is a close up of the trunk of the tree in one spot, but it was like that everywhere. For scale, the needles remaining on our floor are all about 3/4 inch long, so I assume that’s a similar length to the ones in the photo. The bugs were quite small.
Do you know what kind of bugs they are? My mom suggested they are some kind of stink bug, but the back legs are much longer than any stink bug I’ve seen. We are in Dallas, TX, but the tree could have been shipped in from somewhere (we got it at Home Depot).
Signature: Deana in Texas

Giant Conifer Aphids

Hi Deana,
You have Giant Conifer Aphids in the genus
Cinara (see BugGuide for more information), and they are commonly brought into the house with a Christmas tree.  As the tree begins to dry out, they will flee the tree.  They will not harm your home or you or your pets, but they can be an annoyance.  Your mom is quite astute.  Stink Bugs and Aphids are in the same insect order, Hemiptera, and this order is characterized by sucking mouth parts and includes Cicadas and all True Bugs including Assassin Bugs, Bed Bugs and Toe-Biters.

Thanks so much for the information! I’m glad to know they aren’t really harmful to our two cats and dog or to our home.
In the future, is there something we can look for when choosing a tree so that we don’t have this problem again?  We didn’t see the bugs when we brought it home (and I would think we would have noticed when holding the trunk of the tree to carry it in the house or put it into the stand) so I suppose they were either just eggs at the time or perhaps living -inside- the tree somewhere. I read that they do have some kind of secretion, also – is that something we can look for on the tree in order to prevent this for future holidays?
Or is this just one of the risks associated with purchasing a live tree?
Thanks again,
Deana

Aphids often reproduce by live birth, so if there were a few individuals on the tree when you purchased it, they escaped notice.  If the tree was up for a few weeks, the number of individuals might have increased exponentially, producing the infestation you discovered upon undressing the tree.  Interestingly, in years past, there have been other insect sightings associated with a live Christmas tree.  One year we received about five letters of Preying Mantids hatching from ootheca or egg cases, but we received none of those this year.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Texas

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