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September 1, 2017

Holiday Decorations Harbor Uninvited Guests

Moving Indoors

What types of images does the word “holidays” conjure? Cooler temperatures? Pumpkins and evergreen trees? Changing leaves? Football games? Turkeys? Camouflage? Snow?

For Pest management professionals (PMPs), we begin to think about our “slow” season, continuing education, training, hiring new employees, and possibly taking a few days off! Our customers are also preparing for the next few months, and for many that means heading out to storage buildings, basements or attics to retrieve holiday decorations.

Occasionally, holiday decorations harbor uninvited holiday guests. Many pests can be transported indoors by the homeowner on holiday decorations or their boxes. Brown recluse spiders, silverfish, cockroach ootheca (egg cases), Asian lady beetles, brown marmorated stink bugs, and even rodents and their droppings can be brought in.

Firewood is also a culprit for hitchhiking pests such as cockroaches and mites or spiders.

If the decorations are or were food based, stored product pests such as meal moths or beetles can be present. If your customer is bringing in live plants such as greenery or poinsettias, hay bales or other living or dead plants, these can function as a courier for pests. Firewood is also a culprit for hitchhiking pests such as cockroaches and mites or spiders.

Educate Your Customers

Unfortunately, there is very little a PMP can do to stop these vagabond pests. Any repellent or barrier products we may place in/around the structure are bypassed by the customer.

The best control method is to educate your customers about the proper storage and re-introduction of holiday decorations.

  • Inspect all holiday décor before bringing it in the house
  • Unpack boxes and bags outdoors
  • Shake out any items outdoors to dislodge any potential pests
  • Store items in hard plastic containers or bins with a sealable lid which are more difficult for pests to access
  • Items that are food or animal based, such as paper mache, wool, seeds or garlands should be sealed in plastic bags or other sealable containers
  • Avoid storing items in cardboard boxes; they are great homes for pests, rodents can easily chew through them, and they don’t last well in humid or very hot environments
  • If you choose to bring in living plants, trees or greenery, inspect it carefully for any pest activity, especially deep in the branches and at the trunk of trees or main stem of plants

If you feel the infestation warrants a pesticide application, avoid using insecticides or pesticides on decorations if possible. Focus treatments in storage areas and cracks and crevices in the structure.

Always read and follow any pesticide label directions.


Janis Reed, Ph.D., BCE

Director Product Development & Regulatory

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