Since the emergence of the spotted lanternfly in New Jersey several years ago, many residents may have wondered if the invasive pest could disrupt one of their Christmas traditions.

Fortunately, that is unlikely, according to Donna Allison Cole, executive secretary of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association, who said evidence of the bugs at her Cole's Country Tree Farm in Alexandria Township has been rare, if any.

"The spotted lanternfly does not choose the Christmas tree as a host," Cole said. "The lanternflies, for the most part, will look for grapevines or orchards."

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The tree of heaven, which is also an invasive species, is a spotted lanternfly's preferred host in particular.

"We have not had a problem at all finding eggs or lanternflies on the trees, even in the summer," Cole said.

Cole said, however, that just because the spotted lanternfly is not an issue doesn't mean that other insects, eggs, or even small birds might not be.

So, she advises anyone who goes to a Christmas tree farm to cut down their selection this season to have the tree shaken.

That is not a service that everyone offers, she said, but it is a good idea if available.

"Leaves and anything will fall out, if there's any loose needles they will also come off, so that makes a pretty clean tree if it's been put on a shaker," Cole said.

After the tree is shaken, needles will stay on the tree longest if it is put in water right away after being brought home, according to Cole.

"It will certainly help to keep the tree fresher and have better needle retention, so I can't stress enough to put that tree in water," she said.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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