Christmas is almost here and the decorations are up. In pride of place stands your Christmas tree, bedecked with baubles, tinsel and fairy lights. But, if you have a real tree rather than a fake one, there may be more than you think amongst the branches and needles. Your tree might be home to as many as 25,000 insects and arachnids, according to Associate Professor Bjarte Jordal at the University of Bergen, Norway.
The trees we use to decorate our homes have spent their lives in the natural world and have been a part of their local ecosystem. Of course, this means that animals have made their homes in them. Larger creatures, like squirrels or birds, will evacuate when the tree is cut down. But the smaller minibeasts are not even aware that anything has changed – well, not until they get into your house anyway!
Christmas trees live in northern climes, where the winters are very cold. Because of this, most animals that live on them will shut down, or hibernate, over the coldest months and reawaken when the weather warms in spring. The thing is, centrally-heated modern homes are very warm. This fools the creepy-crawlies into thinking spring has come and so they wake up in your living room.
So, what types of creatures might you expect to find on your tree? Here’s a list of some of the most common:
- Springtails – tiny creatures about 6mm long. They feed on decaying matter and can jump around by ‘flicking’ their tails
- Bark lice – similar to springtails in that they are tiny and feed on decaying matter. They can also acquire a taste for paper and books though!
- Mites – another tiny one. Many types of mites are found on trees. For most of us they are harmless, but those who have allergies ‘mite’ have a problem!
- Spiders – the natural predators of tree-dwelling minibeasts. The ones found are not adapted to indoor life though, and will die if they venture too far from your tree
I do hope that this information has not put you off having a real Christmas tree. They are much better, I think, than artificial copies. None of the tree’s inhabitants can cause us any real harm – in fact, you probably won’t even notice them. If you do need a boost to your Christmas spirit after reading this, then go and download our free Family Christmas Quiz. It’s guaranteed to raise some cheer!
Another place you might like to visit is the Nature section of our site. It’s packed full of quizzes on animals, plants and all else ecological. If you love the natural world then it’s the place to go to test your natural knowledge!