Thursday, December 20, 2012

Uninvited Holiday Pests

I just received an email from Steve Frank, Extension Entomologist at North Carolina State University about unwanted pests that you may find on your Christmas tree. It is a two part article that you may find interesting and helpful. Hope you enjoy.

Uninvited Holiday Guests: Part 1

Christmas trees like other crops have many pests that feed on them. Also like other crops, they are grown outside. Thus, many insect species may be unfortunate enough to stop for a rest just as the tree is bundled up and trucked to your local box store. Every year people report arthropods that have hitchhiked into their house on a Christmas tree. Here are a few of the most common.

Cinara sp. aphids feed on Christmas trees and are sometimes present at harvest time ( These critters feed on tree sap and are often mistaken for ticks once inside a house. They are easily distinguished from ticks because they have 6 legs whereas ticks have 8. In addition they are round whereas ticks are flat. These aphids cannot survive long without a living tree and will soon fizzle out as the tree dries.

Spruce spider mites are another Christmas tree pest that could come in on your tree. You would have to be looking very hard to see these guys. They are very small. 

Cooly spruce gall adelgids are Christmas tree pests and super interesting ( They have a complex life cycle in which they alternate between two hosts. The produce galls that look like cones that actually contain hundreds of young aphids. 

It is important to remember that all of these pests feed on live trees. The will not set up shop under your couch or on your dog. As the tree dies so will they. If there are more than you can handle then return the tree and pick a new one. It is very unlikely you would get another infested tree even from the same dealer.

Uninvited Holiday Guests: Part 2

We discussed arthropod pests of Christmas trees that people find once they bring trees into their home. In this article we will discuss arthropod hitchhikers that do not feed on Christmas trees but were unlucky enough to be on one when it was cut, bundled, and shipped. When you get home with your tree these critters may wander off and startle the kids or amuse your cat but will not cause harm to people or become permanent residents of your home. They do not want to be there any more (probably way less) than you want them there. 

Many arthropods spend the winter as eggs that their parents laid in the fall. The eggs typically hatch when warm weather comes in the spring. However, if the eggs are on a tree that you place in front of your warm yuletide fire they will hatch (please don’t put your Christmas tree near a fire, yuletide or otherwise). 

Spiders frequently lay eggs on trees and hitchhike into homes on Christmas trees. Spider hatchlings get around in nature by climbing to the top of plants and ballooning on silk threads. Essentially they get blown around and hope to land in a good spot. In your living room there is probably not much wind (though Grandpa always complains about the draft) but they will still string silk around the tree as they try to catch a breeze. Eventually they will give up and crawl off the tree where you might spot them on the wall. 

Praying mantids are a fun insect to rear. The egg case looks like brown foam from which hundreds of small mantids emerge. The young mantids are an inch or so long and very quick. They climb all over and really freak people out who aren’t expecting them. Young mantids are hungry, voracious predators so maybe they will eat the other bugs you didn't know you had. A lot of bugs live in your home no matter how clean it is. Our friends at can tell you all about this.

People also report adult and larval lady beetles or green lacewings. Of course people often find Asian multicolored lady beetles in their house that come in through vents and cracks to spend the winter. It is possible that adult or larval lady beetles of other species could be hunkered down for the winter on your Christmas tree along with green lacewings and their larvae. Green lacewings are beautiful delicate insects as adults and predators as larvae. They are very cool to watch and to feed if you happen to have some other bugs lying around. 

As we mentioned yesterday, Christmas trees are a natural product grown outdoors. Any insect that happened to land on a tree and get bundled up will emerge in your living room. Other things we have found include bark beetles, psyllids, stinkbugs, weevils, and moths. Just vacuum them up. It is very unlikely any human pest, like ticks, or structural pest, like termites, would ever get transported on Christmas trees. So don’t worry. Watch the cat go crazy and enjoy the wildlife!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall Invadors

It seems like every year we have more and more insects looking to our homes to escape the oncoming winter. First there were lady bugs to boxelder bugs and now we have to worry about kudzu bugs and marmorated stink bugs. It all seems so confusing as we try to figure out how to get rid of these nuisance pests. Another home invader that we often experience as cooler weather approaches is the paper wasps. While all the workers are dying the surviving queens are seeking some out of the way place to spend the winter. Unfortunately, these wasps will often find their way indoors. You will often see them bouncing off windows, ceilings, and light fixtures. They will also tend to congregate in attics where you may find several flying about on warmer days.

Some things to remember about these occasional wasp sitings are:

First - seeing these wasps do not mean that there is a nest in the wall. Paper wasps prefer to be outside on overhangs or under a porch.

Second - Since these are queens looking of overwintering sites and not workers defending a nest, they are not aggressive and not likely to sting. Stings do occasionally happen, however, when one of these wasps crawls into a shoe left on the floor or in a jacket left hanging where they can access it. If you leave shoes on the floor or clothing hanging on a door, shake them before putting them on so you can see if a wasp flies out.

Third - Spraying indoors to control these wasps is futile. There isn't a specific target area to treat and the wasps are likely to be hiding in an area where it will not be affected. The most effective way is to just keep a rolled up newspaper nearby and swatting any unwelcome visitors.

For additional information: 

Information for this post was obtained from an email from Michael Waldvogel.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gardens, Mountains and Streams Garden Tour

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gardens, Mountains and Streams Garden Tour

Haywood County Master Gardener Volunteer tour of six private gardens.

Gardens will highlight the beauty of Haywood County’s mountains and streams including a whimsical hillside garden, a creek side and English-style garden and a mountain top garden with spectacular views.

The tour will begin at the historic old dairy barn that stands along side 3 huge silos in the Mountain Research Station at 265 Test Farm Road across from the NC Extension Cooperative Center on Raccoon Road in Waynesville.

Directions to the gardens will be distributed to ticket holders at this location. The $10 tickets will be sold here but advance tickets are available by calling the Cooperative Extension at 828-456-3575. Tickets may also be reserved for “will call” the day of the tour by emailing

Other locations for ticket sales will be announced soon.

A metal garden sculpture by WNC metal artist, Grace Cathey, will be the featured drawing item.

Net proceeds will be used to supplement the Extension Horticulture Program in Haywood County. “In the past, funds have supported school gardens, materials for the plant clinic, and commercial horticultural programs that help the local green industry and its workers,” said Tim Mathews, Extension Agent for Agriculture and Horticulture.”

Directions From Asheville: Off I-40 west, take Exit 27 on 19/23 South (Clyde/Waynesville). Go 3miles to Exit 104 (Lake Junaluska – East Waynesville). Take Hwy 23 Business South toward Waynesville. Go 2 miles. Around the traffic circle take Ratcliffe Cove Road. Travel Approximately .06 mile to the Mountain Research Station sign. The road name will change to Raccoon Road, continue straight).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Haywood County Garden Tour Exhibit

April 4 – April 28, 2012

Gardens, Mountains & Streams - An Artist’s View of the Haywood County Garden Tour

Gallery 86

86 North Main Street; Waynesville, NC

Twelve Haywood County artists are creating varied media reflecting the theme of the June 23, 2012 Master Gardener Volunteer Garden tour of 6 private gardens and old dairy barn at the Research Test Station.

Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am – 5:00pm

For more information email or visit