(TMU) — The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a number of lovely past-times—from the inevitable contentious family dinner discussions to high-stress travel, Christmas spending sprees that break the bank, and… swarming praying mantis nymphs?
Officials in one Ohio county are warning that this could be the case after some Christmas trees were found with a mass that looks somewhat like a miniature pine cone, but is actually something far creepier, literally.
According to a recent Facebook post by officials from Erie County, people should be aware that if they see a mysterious walnut-sized mass on their Christmas tree, they shouldn’t brush it off as some organic tree growth but should instead immediately clip the branch and place it in the garden, because the mass is actually an egg sac holding numerous praying mantises.
In one photo shared to Facebook, officials estimate that the mass could hold anywhere from 100 to 200 of the praying mantis eggs. The post added:
“Don’t bring them inside. They will hatch and starve!”
PSA: If you happen to see a walnut sized/shaped egg mass, on your Christmas tree, don’t fret, clip the branch and put it…
Sydney K. Brannoch, Ph.D, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington, Seattle, who wrote her doctoral thesis on the insect, told House Beautiful:
“Yes, praying mantises have been known to deposit egg cases (called ootheca/ oothecae) on various types of vegetation, including the trees that we love to decorate at Christmas time. While I have yet to have a Christmas tree with an ootheca on one of its branches, it is certainly a possibility.
Depending on the species of praying mantis, the ootheca could have approximately 100-200 eggs, which could certainly hatch earlier than expected after spending a month or so in someone’s warm home.”
However, while the idea of hundreds of tiny insects creeping across your picture-perfect holiday idyll may sound horrifying, praying mantises can actually be helpful when it comes to containing common pests in the home like flies, moths, grasshoppers, and other insects. The praying mantis is also notorious for cannibalizing its own kind in certain conditions.
Brannoch explained that yes, the advice from Erie County officials is sound and one should indeed place the sac outdoors on a branch, shrub, or in one’s garden. She added:
“If you do have an emergence of praying mantis nymphs in your home due to an unseen ootheca, do not panic!
Gently sweep them up, using a broom and dustpan, into Tupperware before placing it into the freezer (to euthanize the mantis nymphs) or to transfer to a terrarium to feed and play with until the summer when you can release them back into the wild.”
For those who feel convinced now to purchase an artificial tree, we don’t blame you. However, one may take comfort from the fact that in some cultures, the “praying” predator’s appearance in the home is seen as a sign that angels are watching over you.
In which case, feel free to enjoy the holiday eggs!