Here's how to minimize the chance of bringing home any unwanted house guests.
Credit: Getty: Justin Sullivan / Staff

You've probably noticed rows of live Christmas trees lined up outside your favorite supermarket, and you might find yourself picking one up this week. We don’t mean to be Grinch-y, but there’s something you should probably know before you strap in your tree and head home.

The New York Daily News reports that a Black Widow spider was spotted on a tree sold by a HEB supermarket in San Antonio, Texas. While you might think the shopper was just unlucky, a representative from the retail chain says it’s not unheard of for trees to be delivered to supermarkets alongside other “elements of nature.”

It makes sense, given that spiders live in nature, but the thought of live insects in your living room is nevertheless unsettling. It begs the question: how can you minimize your chance of choosing a tree full of spiders, mites, beetles, or other pests? Thankfully, there are some quick steps you can take before loading your tree into your car and, later, your home.

1. Take a Closer Look

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry recommends inspecting your tree from top to bottom for visible insects, nests, eggs, or other irregularities along the tree’s bark. Be thorough and inspect each tier of branches – it may seem ridiculous, but a few extra minutes may help you notice (and remove!) any potentially dangerous bugs.

2. Shake It Out

Some retailers have mechanical tree shakers to get rid of any loose pine needles, but the machines are also great for removing insects. It’s worth calling your grocery store ahead of time to see if they have this service – if not, you can still reduce your risk of bringing home unwanted critters by gently shaking the tree yourself.

3. Step Away from the Chemicals

If you’ve already set up your tree and you’re worried about pests, there’s still a simple solution. Many of these critters can’t adapt to warm temperatures and low humidity, meaning they’ll most likely die on their own. Don’t use aerosol insect sprays on your tree – they’re extremely flammable and can be dangerous to use indoors. Simply remove any insects with a vacuum nozzle or dusting brush.

Remember, many of the insects found on live Christmas trees are not harmful to you or your family (pets included). Maybe you can feel a little bit better knowing that these unwanted house guests are just that...and nothing more.