Walnut-Sized Mass Found in Christmas Trees Actually Contains Hundreds of Eggs


The good news: there are some guests that might be able to come into your home this Christmas in endless numbers regardless of restrictions put in place by government officials.

The bad news (this is 2020, after all — there has to be bad news): You really don’t want them to drop by. Really.

As Erie County, Ohio, warned residents in a public service announcement last year, freshly cut Christmas trees could be hiding a “walnut-sized” mass that actually contains hundreds of praying mantis eggs.

Warnings that a few hundred bugs could be hiding among your ornaments have been raised on social media for years.

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And in Virginia, one woman rang in the new year with a few hundred of her closest friends.

Veterinarian Molly Kreuze found the bugs, which had already hatched, in January of 2019. But instead of killing them, she found an alternative.

“In my googling, I discovered people really like praying mantises,” she said, according to WJLA-TV. “They are useful, they eat other bugs, people use them for organic gardening.”

Kreuze scooped up those she could with a box and envelope, and fed them fruit flies.

“I hope to find them a home,” she said. “I don’t want them.”

Sydney K. Brannoch, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington, Seattle, said the bugs might hatch at any time, according to House Beautiful.

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Do you put up a freshly-cut tree at Christmas?

“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,” she said.

“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.”

But there is some comfort in the words of horticulture educator Chris Enroth from the University of Illinois Extension.

“These Christmas tree post-harvest pests are rare, occurring in 1 out of 100,000 cut trees,” he said.

Many Christmas tree farmers use “a pest management system called Integrated Pest Management” to make sure praying mantises don’t leave the property, Doug Hundley, a seasonal spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association, told Snopes. Simply cutting off the branch holding the mass and bringing it outside is also a viable option.

Enroth said the image of chasing bugs all over the house instead of listening for reindeer is more fear than reality.

“Yes, it is true that Christmas trees can harbor dormant pests that become active after being exposed to the warm indoor temperatures, but most of these pests will remain on the tree, while only a few might find their way to your windowsills,” Enroth wrote.

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