Bugs in my Christmas tree?

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On the surface it is green, with shining lights and adorable glitter, but on closer examination experts around the world has found it is crawling with ticks, spiders, and mites waiting to eat your favourite pets. In modern culture we name it The Christmas tree.

 

In Norway, where I live, we have, for generations, enjoyed the beauty and smell of the Christmas tree. However, as science progresses, it has been discovered that under the surface, scary creatures like springtails, bark lice, mites, moths, and occasionally ticks, crawl, scratch, and munch around. Is this a morbid joke made up by lonely entomologists and journalists with chronic hangovers, or is it really true? Here at Bugbitten we have done an exhaustive investigation and offer our conclusions about the inhabitants of the Christmas tree in hopes that our observations will help the world understand what is going on in this dark place.

 

The study was done in Bergen, Norway, and due to accessibility (heavy snowfall, figure 1) we restricted the observations to a representative Christmas tree located in our offices. First we examined the tree by visual inspection. Visual inspection was done by standing ten meters away from the tree, looking for moving objects, but at the same time making sure the bugs were not disturbed. Secondly we shook it thoroughly, and collected any insects falling to the ground. All objects hitting the Christmas carpet laying under the tree were investigated with a microscope (Canon IXUS 800 IS in macro mode). The insects were then stored in 80% Ethanol for later analysis.

 

Figure 1
Figure 1

While looking at the tree, we spotted many objects which could have been bugs. On closer examination it turned out these were actually chocolates covered with tin foil (figure 2). It was tempting to end the investigation at this point, but we figured the world needs a definite answer to this important question. After shaking the tree, many objects fell to the ground, most of them making thump or shattering sounds, indicating they were likely too heavy or fragile to be bugs. However, we did find one insect-like object which we further investigated under the microscope. As seen in figure 3, this was probably a pine needle, and not a bug.

Figure 2
Figure 2

 

Disappointed by our negative findings we consumed most of the chocolate covered with tin foil (carefully removing the foil first), before being spotted by our co-workers. We had to claim we found the tree in this condition, and blamed the students. We suspect they also took the (now pine flavoured) 80% Ethanol, as it also disappeared. Based on this study we conclude there are no bugs in Christmas trees, but that it is very likely you will find other edible substances made from milk, sugar, and cacao beans. There are some limitations to this research. After the study had been completed, we were made aware it was a plastic tree. Since we could not tell the difference, we find it highly unlikely bugs would be smart enough know what’s what. The conclusion is therefore robust: No need for fear mongering, and next Christmas we will think about finding an old fashioned tree.

Figure 3
Figure 3

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Kevin Tyler

Amazing that you did not see the gaping holes in this story – Your tree is plastic! The branches are hollow, they could be stuffed full of biting insects and helminthic worms emerging only at night to feast on the chocolate ornaments. Perhaps there is some sort of selection bias going on in your selection of Nordic plastic Christmas trees.

And since when did Norwegians consider snow a barrier to accessibility? – is this another global warming effect ?? Anyway, I’ve seen many unnatural looking plastic Christmas trees and they often bug me.

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