Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas trees should come with warnings

Live or artificial? What kind of Christmas tree do you have at your house? We have family members with allergies so we always put up an artificial one, but I've always missed the pine scent and fun that goes along with picking out the "perfect" tree. Not anymore. After reading this, I have a new found respect for artificial trees.
Last year Vickie Wright and her friend Gail Leonard got a Christmas surprise they hadn’t anticipated. They each bought a live Christmas tree at one of the local tree farms. They took the trees home, decorated the trees and were ready for Christmas.

But about a week before Christmas, Vickie came home to find a room full of praying mantises (or “mantes,” which is also acceptable as the plural). They had landed on her floor, and more were coming out of the tree in waves.
The warm house tricked the mantis larvae into thinking it was spring! Gail experienced the same thing too, although her mantises didn't start appearing until after Christmas, and for several days in a row.

Gary Letterly, natural resources educator at the University of Illinois County Extension office, says this doesn't happen often, but he acknowledged it happened to him last Christmas.
“In about a matter of six days,” Gary says, “We had one little praying mantis. We thought, ‘Isn’t that cute!’ The next day we had six or 10. After that, we noticed them on the draperies.”

And then, he says, there were hundreds.
Hundreds! Ugh! Not exactly what I'd want under my Christmas tree.

So what should you do if you find these creepy, crawly mantes in your house? No, don't step on them or reach for the Raid. Horticulturists suggest carefully scooping up the insects and putting them outside under some compost or leaves where they, hopefully, may have a chance of surviving till spring.

And if you haven't brought your live tree inside yet, they also warn never spraying the tree with insecticide.
If you want to do something preventive, check for mantis egg pods in the Christmas tree, pull them out and put them under some leaves.

“It’s anywhere from a half-inch to an inch long,” Jennifer says. “It’s got a hard, protective shell over the eggs. There are anywhere from 12 to 400 eggs in a case.”
The egg case can be put outside under compost too. With any luck, they'll survive and hatch in the spring, and go on to lay more eggs on more Christmas trees.

Consider yourself warned. I think I'll stick with my artificial tree. Sorry, Santa.


Midwestern Progressive said...

We have an artificial tree too. After reading this, I'm quite glad about that.

Merry Christmas Kathy! And here's to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009 for you and your family.

Kathy said...

Midwestern, Merry Christmas to you too. I've missed your blog and wondered how your new career aspirations have been going. I hope all is well and the New Year bring health and happiness to your family.

Lew Scannon said...

I've had the same fake tree for years and see no reason to get a real one. And I'm sorry, any bug that finds it's way into my house uninvited......