Natural Trees Come With Christmas Critters

Valerie Everett/CC BY 2.0

An article published by the University of Bergen in Norway on Bugs in the Christmas Tree gives an insectologist's view of the "Little creepy-crawlies rocking inside your Christmas tree."

A Closer Look at Christmas Visitors

Associate Professor Bjarte Jordal -- an expert on insects -- lists springtails, bark lice, mites, moths, and spiders as the most common hitchhikers on a typical Christmas tree. He explains that most of the critters in the Christmas tree wake up from hibernation upon sensing the warm glow of a festive living room. While the number may vary, Jordal says up to 25,000 living creatures may inhabit a tree.

Sadly, Jordal points out the fate of most of these unsuspecting visitors:

Both the Christmas tree and the house itself will be very dry. Also, most insects don’t live off the tree, only in it. As they cannot feed on the limited plants found in most households, the bugs will quickly dry out and die. These insects and bugs do not constitute any risk or danger to people or furniture.

A New Twist on Christmas Tree Debate

Some years back, Pablo Paster answered the perennial question of which is best: live, cut, or artificial trees? Occasionally, considerations such as re-using the same Christmas tree every year since 1928 or increasing global warming by clear-cutting natural hardwood forests to make way for Christmas tree farms muddy the life-cycle analysis of the Christmas tree.

But will knowing that we may be harming masses of little creatures for the sake of a tree in our living room change attitudes? How to handle that one?

For the hard core vegetarian or karma-sensitive TreeHugger, who probably already use a live tree if any, a short indoor appearance accompanied by good humidifier should keep little visitors alive until they can be replanted in nature to re-evaluate their decisions to wake up from hibernation.

For many who accept bug suffering as a natural part of life's cycles, a Christmas tree decision is no different from all of life's decisions -- we make our choices mostly oblivious to the hardy survivalists in the microscopic domain.

Luckily for this writer, our family started a tradition several years ago that makes the question moot. We painted a canvas with a tree. Now, every year at Christmas each visitor to our home paints an ornament on the tree. Can't paint? No excuse, this canvas is less a work of art and more a re-usable living record of the years of love and togetherness.

What do you do, and will this news change your habits? Let us know in the comments. And happy holidays to all, whatever traditions you practice.

Tags: Christmas | Christmas Trees | Insects

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