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Uninvited Holiday Guests

Cinara aphids (also called giant conifer aphids) on spruce. Photo credit: Edward H. Hosten, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.

Cinara aphids (also called giant conifer aphids) on spruce.
Photo credit: Edward H. Hosten, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.

The winter holidays are here, and you may have some unexpected and unwelcome guests. Firewood brought into homes is a classic route for some beetle and ant species to enter a structure. Cinara aphids, which are generally large brown to black aphids, can often be brought in on Christmas trees. Even though they are plant feeders, many people think Cinara aphids are ticks and can cause them great concern when they see several hundred walking around the holiday tree. Other insects, typically outdoor nesters or plant feeders may be brought into a home on potted plants moved indoors to avoid freezing temperatures outside. Sometimes fire ants or Argentine ants nesting in outdoor pots get into homes this way.

Black carpenter ant workers are sometimes brought into homes on firewood. Photo credit: Phillip Hofmeister, Shutterstock.

Black carpenter ant workers are sometimes brought into homes on firewood.
Photo credit: Phillip Hofmeister, Shutterstock.

If you see some unusual insect guests over the holiday, think about how they may have arrived. In many cases, it may be from plant material or firewood recently brought into your home for the holidays. Taking firewood or infested plant material back outdoors or mechanically removing pests like Cinara aphids around a Christmas tree usually does the trick, with little or no insecticide treatment necessary.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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