It’s April now and Christmas was a long time ago, but I have to tell you a story about the Christmas tree. That tree was quite likely the ugliest tree we had ever had. It was also, without a doubt, the evilest. It may not have started out that way, but it was hijacked by evil. Here’s how I found out.
As I was sitting in the living room one night, half-asleep, watching the Golden Globes because I was too tired to change the channel, I happened to glance over to my left and there, all over my brand new floor, were bugs. Not just a bug or two, but an army, and they looked like ticks.
In a panic, I called my Faithful Reader. “Did you bring anything into the house today?” I asked him. He wasn’t sure what I meant. “Did you bring anything into the house that might have had ticks on it. Yes, ticks. TICKS!”
He hadn’t, and he couldn’t imagine where they had come from. Of course, he also couldn’t come home right away. I was on my own.
My first priority was the baby, of course. I went upstairs, changed my clothes and brushed out my hair to make sure there were no ticks on me. Then I woke the baby up and stripped him down. Whew! No ticks on him either.
With no one else there to take care of the bugs, I decided to catch them myself. I found an empty spice jar, and using a paper towel, I started picking them up one at a time and dropping them into the bottle. At 71 I stopped and realized, with horror, how many were yet still on the floor. What I really needed was the vacuum cleaner!
But there’s this funny thing about me and vacuum cleaners. I hate them. Particularly when I’m tired and scared, I can’t stand loud noises. If I ran the vacuum cleaner, I wouldn’t be able to hear anything else, which would mean that something could creep up behind me. Perhaps subconsciously I imagined a Mother Bug, 100 times the size of the others, lurking somewhere in the house, just waiting for me to turn my back. I couldn’t do it, so I sat down and waited for my Faithful Reader.
When he got home, he took one look at them and said “Those aren’t ticks.” And they weren’t. They were, as we discovered later, cinara aphids. Cinara aphids are among the biggest aphids on earth. They live on trees and sometimes those trees get harvested for use as Christmas trees. In the warm household air, the bugs rapidly multiply and eventually overwhelm the tree. Then they go looking for more food. The grossest thing about a cinara infestation is that the bugs squish quite easily. When squished, they resemble raspberry jam, and their jamminess stains upholstery badly, according to online sources.
Naturally, once we realized that the tree was the source of the bugs, Faithful Reader tossed it, and that was the end of the bugs, thank goodness. We got lucky in some ways. Because we have so little furniture and carpeting, we didn’t have any serious staining from the squished bugs. Since we got our tree so late, the bugs didn’t start hitting the floor in search of food until after Christmas.
But the sick tree bled sap everywhere. Some of it got past the plastic and tree skirt that we had put down to protect the floor. Some of my ornaments got covered with sap, and they’re so delicate that I didn’t dare clean them. In hindsight, I think that the sappiness of the tree was a clue to its condition. You see, as we were setting up the tree and putting ornaments on it, we noticed that the branches were extra sticky with sap. It just didn’t occur to us that this was unusual or that the sap was going to rain down on the floor. So the moral of this story, which I share with everyone who will listen, is that if you notice any extra sap on your tree, examine it closely every day and make sure it’s not infested, or else you might end up with this in your house: