Growing up, my parents used to take me to pick out a live Christmas tree every year. I loved walking through the trees, smelling their sweet sap in the cold air, and trying to find the most symmetrical "perfect" shape. Always a Frasier Fir! My mom liked those best.

Before making it to the lot, I would imagine lots of trees make temporary homes for birds, squirrels, and bugs as they are growing. Luckily, we never found any wildlife surprises in ours while decking the halls. Other than the year our tiny little Siamese cat, Suki, kept climbing it! Mom had to drill hooks into the wall and wrap wire around the tree to keep her from knocking it over.

Surprises INSIDE Christmas Trees

It seems to be a fairly common occurrence for guests to tag along home with live Evergreens. Like this Kentucky family who found an owl in their tree!

https://youtu.be/-O57xeQqfDA?si=hSx1a7SakYO0zqI9

I have some friends who were traumatized by a BAT that had taken up residence in their Christmas tree one year. Pure chaos ensued as the gremlin flew around the house and the family members ran around either hiding from it or trying to chase it out the door.

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Evansville Christmas Tree Has Strange Pod Stuck to it

In one of my favorite bug Facebook groups (Yes, there are multiple. I am a huge bug nerd, no shame!) I saw a post by a woman in Evansville. She found a strange pod on the pines of her live Christmas tree and shared a picture of it with the caption:

"Found this on our Christmas tree. Native? Best way to protect it until spring? Evansville Indiana USA"

Beth Heil
Beth Heil
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It looks like a burnt marshmallow to me!

One of the commenters went straight into panic mode, "Mantises! 10000000 mantises!"

While the other calmer contributors swiftly identified this mysterious growth as a Chinese Mantis Ootheca. "Put it outside or it will hatch and you will have hundreds of baby mantises all over the place," one of them suggested. OK, so maybe not a million, but still -A LOT- of mantids.

The Missouri Department of Conservation says:

"Most mantids live for only about a year. They hatch in spring and spend the rest of the growing season eating, growing, and molting. They mate and lay eggs in late summer and die when it freezes. Eggs overwinter in egg cases (ootheca)."

While they are considered non-native, there is not enough data to determine that they are "invasive" or harming our local ecosystem. That is a common but inaccurate myth.

What to do if you Find a Mantis Ootheca on Your Tree

Because the Oothecas are made to survive in cold weather, they will also sense whenever the weather turns warm for spring. If left inside, they will think your heated home is the changing of seasons and will hatch  Because of that, there are two safe options unless you are equipped to nurture a couple hundred Mantis babies and keep them from eating each other. Yes, they will do that if they don't have enough food!

1. Cut off the branch the Ootheca is attached to and put it somewhere outside. Preferably under a bush or some leaves somewhere. It will safely hibernate so the babies can grow until the proper time to hatch.

2. Cut off the branch and place it in a jar in your refrigerator and then put the branch outside in the spring.

Have you ever found a wildlife surprise in your Christmas tree? What did you do? Share your story with us on the WBKR App.

 

 

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