I used to get a real Christmas tree every year as a kid with my family. I specifically remember going to the same farm in Canastota every year and picking which one I wanted, we would cut it down and bring it home to decorate that very day.

Selecting a Christmas tree is a magical moment as a kid. Until you realize how hard it is (in my opinion) to keep up with it. Making sure it's watered (my dog would ALWAYS drink the water in the tree stand.) You constantly step on pine needles from it. Ouch. So when I was a teenager, we opted to get an artificial tree instead.

I do still understand why a lot of people get real trees, it just wasn't suitable for my family. However, this year when it comes to getting your real Christmas tree, make sure you take all the steps to make sure it's in good condition to bring home. The Department of Environmental Conservation is warning New Yorkers to check them for a tree-killing insect that can hatch eggs inside homes.

The DEC says the spotted lanternfly is an invasive bug native to eastern Asia that made its first appearance in the United States in Pennsylvania four years ago. It is a threat to New York’s agricultural and forest health, as it feeds on the sap of more than 70 species. This feeding stresses plants and makes them vulnerable to disease and attacks from other insects. The insects also excrete large amounts of sticky “honeydew."

Photo courtesy of the NYS DEC
Photo courtesy of the NYS DEC

According to the DEC’s website, adult lanternflies are about one-inch long and half-an-inch wide at rest, with eye-catching wings. Their forewings are grayish with black spots. The lower portions of their hindwings are red with black spots, and the upper portions are dark with a white stripe.

While the lanternfly doesn’t specifically seek out Christmas trees specifically, Perry said the bugs have a preference for vertical surfaces, darker material and rough material, such as bark.

“One of the things we did notice, and was indicated last year in New Jersey, someone purchased a Christmas tree and brought it into the house,” Perry said. “The eggs will stay dormant until it gets warm. The egg nest on the Christmas tree in the house will think its warm and may begin to hatch.”

If you find a lanternfly or egg masses, Perry urges taking a photo and email it to DEC’s lanternfly email, spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov. Please include the location with address, intersecting roads or landmarks in the email.

After you take a photo, Perry says to scrape off the bug and either crush it or put it in a vial with isopropyl alcohol to make sure it is dead.

So before you buy a Christmas tree and bring it into your home, check the tree trunk and branches for a live lanternfly or its egg masses. Although the eggs are difficult to see or find, they are the most important because they can lead to the insect multiplying. Perry said when buying a tree, New Yorkers should find out where the tree is coming from to make sure it’s not from a quarantined area.

No one needs a bug infestation to put a damper on the holidays, so be cautious when searching for that perfect tree for your home!

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