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Boughs of Christmas Trees Hold Many Insects, Bug Expert Says

Posted: Dec 23, 2012 7:00 AM by Robert Preidt

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SUNDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Ornaments are not the only things nestled in the branches of the average real Christmas tree. Thousands of small bugs may be hiding in the fir tree you bring into your home, but they pose little risk, according to an insect expert.

Research has shown that a single Christmas tree may contain as many as 25,000 individual bugs, such as bark lice, mites, moths and spiders, said Bjarte Jordal, an associate professor at the University Museum of Bergen in Norway.

The bugs in these trees have gone into hibernation, but may reawaken when the tree is brought into the warmth of your home. Most of them stay in the tree and quickly die, so you don't have to worry about bugs swarming out of your tree, and there is no risk to people or furniture, Jordal explained in a university news release.

He also said that there is a minimal risk from ticks that may be carried in with the tree. However, if you want to be extra cautious, you might want to avoid letting your dog sleep under the tree.

It's impossible to spot the bugs because they are good at hiding and are invisible to the human eye. If you're curious about how many bugs were in your tree, you can pound it on a white cloth before your throw it out after the holidays are over, Jordal suggested.

There is no way to flush or clean a Christmas tree to make it bug-free, and trying to do so will just damage the tree, he pointed out.

"You need to take into consideration that there are plenty of insects and bugs in potted plants that are regular features in most households," Jordal said in the news release. "It's no different with Christmas trees."

More information

The American Christmas Tree Association offers Christmas tree safety tips.

SOURCE: University of Bergen, news release, Dec. 18, 2012

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