Evaluating Risks of Ticks at Christmas Tree Farms

Date: 

2016 to 2018

Summary: 

In recent years there have been several stories in the popular media about individuals finding “ticks” in their Christmas trees. While this finding is not consistent with tick biology, members of the NYS IPM Program decided that the question of whether ticks can be found on Christmas trees should be scientifically evaluated. A total of nine Christmas tree farms in New York State were evaluated for the presence of ticks, including three in each of the following areas: Hudson Valley, Capital District, and Ithaca. Ticks were sampled using standard dragging and flagging techniques between and on the trees, respectively. No ticks were found on the trees, but ticks were found in the surrounding wooded area as well as in the plantation.

Issue: 

The incidence of ticks and tick-borne disease continue to grow in the Northeastern United States. Fears about ticks are justified: Lyme disease is the number one vector-borne illness in the United States, and in 2014 it was estimated that 96% of all cases were from 14 states. However, claims about ticks in Christmas trees are not consistent with this arthropods biology, and can affect the reputation, brand and livelihood of Christmas tree growers.

Response: 

In the fall of 2016, Christmas tree farms in the Hudson Valley, Capital District and Ithaca were surveyed for ticks from October through December (three farms per region, nine farms total). Drag cloths were used to monitor for ticks along 20-meter sections in the forest and at increasing distance from the forest edge into the tree plantation. In addition, tick flags were used on 12 trees per farm to monitor for questing ticks. Where possible, trees were beaten over a white sheet at harvest to observe what arthropods fell off.

Impact: 

Results of this study show that ticks are present in wooded areas that surround Christmas tree farms, meeting with expectations of tick distribution based on their biology. On rare occasions, ticks were found in the plantation, but ticks were never found on Christmas trees. These results were recently obtained and have not yet been disseminated. Information about the distribution of ticks and the risks of acquiring a tick in Christmas tree plantations will be developed and promoted. A factsheet describing our findings can be used to inform individuals and the media about our findings.

Submitted by: 

  • Lamb, Elizabeth M

Researchers involved: 

  • Frye, Matthew
  • Lamb, Elizabeth M
  • Lampman, Joellen

International focus: 

  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • New York