Hudson Valley residents looking to create warm holiday memories may want to learn from my terrifying experiences

I've been living in the Hudson Valley for over 25 years and during that time I've always had a live tree in my house. But after two years of disastrous experiences, I'm finally making the switch to a fake tree.

After the birth of my son, my wife and I decided to start a new holiday tradition. Instead of buying our live tree from a lot, we would go to one of the many Christmas tree farms in the area and cut down our own. The first few years were great. We hiked into the wilderness, saw in hand, and picked out the perfect tree to decorate our home with.

But those Norman Rockwell memories soon faded away when our home was completely overrun by creepy, crawly bugs. A week or so after bringing our beloved tree inside, we noticed more and more little spiders crawling around our home. Assuming they were just coming in to escape from the cold, we squashed the ones we found and didn't think much about it. But one night, while sitting on my couch, I looked up at the wall to see dozens of spiders crawling around above my head. As I scanned the room I saw even more on the wall next to the tree. What happened next still gives me nightmares.

After peeking inside the tree I saw the entire trunk of our Christmas tree moving. But what was moving wasn't actually the tree, it was thousands of little spiders crawling all over the inside of our beloved tree. I quickly grabbed some gloves and yanked the tree out of the house; ornaments and all. It turns out there were small spider nests inside our tree that hatched after the tree was brought into our warm home.

You'd think that would stop us from ever wanting a live Christmas tree in our home ever again, but you'd be wrong. Assuming this was just some freak accident, we decided to head back into the hills and try again. This time we brought a flashlight and carefully inspected the tree to look for any nests or eggs. Confident we found a "clean" tree, we brought it home, writing off the spider incident to a freak act of nature.

Once again, a few weeks went by with no issues, until I noticed some strange fuzz on our Christmas tree. Suddenly, I had flashbacks to that moving tree trunk. Expecting to find millions of spiders spinning their fuzzy web all over our tree I peeked inside. Luckily, there were no spiders to be found, but as I scanned the tree I noticed white fuzz coating all of the branches and needles. Some of the fuzz was even attached to our ornaments.

This time our tree wasn't infested with bugs. Instead, it was overrun with a fungus. Fuzzy white mold was growing all over our tree, turning the centerpiece of our holiday celebration into ground zero for disease, allergies and lord knows what else. Again, I grabbed my gloves and evicted the tree from our home, carefully cleaning all of the ornaments with a bleach solution.

So this year we purchased an artificial tree. While we will miss our yearly trips to the Christmas tree farm, the peace of mind knowing that our home won't be infested with bugs or fungus will be a huge comfort. Not worrying about watering the tree or constantly vacuuming up the needles will also allow us to spend more time enjoying the holiday instead of babysitting our diseased tree.

Experts say that Christmas trees can be infested with tens of thousands of bugs and critters. While most of them will die after the tree enters your home, many of them can move from the tree into your house, setting up residence for the rest of the winter. Most pre-cut trees bought from the lot are mechanically shaken by a machine that loosens the bugs and removes dead needles. But if you insist on cutting down your own tree, experts suggest giving the tree a really good shake before bringing it inside. While it won't dislodge all of the bugs or nests, it will at least get some of the less-tenacious critters out of your tree before you bring it inside.

So, good luck if you've decided to cut down your own live tree this year. And if you find yourself wearing a hazmat suit, desperately tossing your tree out of the front door on Christmas Eve, don't say I didn't warn you.

Listen to the WRRV Morning Grind With Brandi and Nick weekday mornings from 6AM to 10AM on 92.7/96.9 WRRV. Stream us live through the website, your Alexa-enabled device, Google Home or the WRRV mobile app.

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