Update, 2020: New Jersey 101.5's Jeff Deminski first wrote this warning about spotted lanternflies in the fall of 2018. New Jersey experts say the problem has only gotten worse. 

Sorry NJ Christmas tree farmers, not this year.

Christmas is still two months away, but displays of artificial trees, pre-lit and beautiful, are in stores everywhere. This year I would strongly suggest you buy one. Turns out there could be a little surprise if you bring home a real tree for the holiday this year. Bugs. And eggs. Hatching. Inside your home.

Agricultural experts are warning of an insect known as the spotted lanternfly. It appeared in the United States for the first time only four years ago. That was in Pennsylvania. But it has been recently spreading swiftly through eastern portions of that state and has now been detected in three New Jersey counties. Warren, Hunterdon and Mercer. It's a tree-killing bug that goes after many dozens of kinds of trees and crops, and that includes every major type of pine tree. They attach themselves to the bark of Christmas trees and begin laying eggs and multiplying. Worse, they're incredibly hard to spot. So if you don't want these critters hatching in your living room it might be time to consider an artificial tree.

Also, did you know artificial trees are better for the environment? If you use a fake tree for more than 8 or 9 years it becomes more environmentally friendly than a real tree, according to Michigan State forester Bill Cook. The fact that on average artificial trees are reused for 11 years makes the choice clear. Why friendlier? Because many real trees end up in landfills and since they decompose very slowly and create methane, a greenhouse gas, they have a significant carbon footprint.

Besides, artificial trees are just easier. No constant worry about watering your tree daily. No needles everywhere that you keep finding through March. No tying it down to the roof of your car as your fingers go numb. And today they look so lifelike and come pre-lit that they often look more beautiful than a real tree. It's the issue that can divide couples like the North, South and Central debate can divide New Jerseyans. But take it from me, it's easier, it's prettier and in the long run it's cheaper. Go artificial.

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