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.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.
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.
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.”Hundreds! Ugh! Not exactly what I'd want under my Christmas tree.
And then, he says, there were hundreds.
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.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.
“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.”
Consider yourself warned. I think I'll stick with my artificial tree. Sorry, Santa.