Here’s some fun fodder for the “real Christmas tree vs. artificial tree” debate that’s been raging among many — including Fox News host Laura Ingraham of “The Ingraham Angle” and Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo.
Molly Kreuze, a resident of Springfield, Virginia, was ready to throw out her live Christmas tree last week when she found a surprise in it.
One of the branches contained a praying mantis egg sac — and now, she has more than 100 insects living in her home as short-term pets.
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“Bugs. Crawling on the walls, crawling on the ceilings. Just kind of moving,” Kreuze said, according to WJLA, an ABC-TV affiliate in Washington, D.C.
Rather than squashing the bugs or letting them go free into the frigid winter climate, Kreuze — a veterinarian — decided to keep them in a shoe box and feed them fruit flies.
Her goal is to find them a new home.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) January 10, 2019
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) January 10, 2019
Beware of the praying mantis. https://t.co/vpwiQ1PaWI
— John Dolusic (@WTVAjohn) January 10, 2019
I'm with Laura. Fake Christmas tree? What next? Rice cakes left for Santa?
— James Marchini (@RamJJM) January 10, 2019
While Kreuze does not want the insects long term, she wants them to be able to live and understands that they could help someone else.
“In my googling, I discovered people really like praying mantises,” she later said. “They are useful, they eat other bugs, and people use them for organic gardening.”
(Contrary to rumors that circulated years ago, it is not a federal crime to kill a praying mantis, as many people fervently believed — though there may be local ordinances that prohibit it.)
Praying mantises are used in organic gardens because they are carnivores. They don’t eat plants; they eat other insects that can harm gardens like flies, crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers and moths.
The downside, however, is that praying mantises also eat insects that help gardens by pollinating plants like honey bees and butterflies, as SFGate and others have pointed out.
Although Kreuze wants to help out the praying mantises this time around, it’s hard to see this scenario coming up again for her in the future.
That’s because she plans on buying an artificial Christmas tree next winter, she said.
This is not the first time someone has spotted praying mantis eggs in a live Christmas tree.
In December 2017, Facebook user Daniel Reed of Philadelphia wrote a post about the topic — which was then shared over 95,000 times.
Reed posted a picture of a praying mantis egg sac and wrote, “If you happen to see a walnut sized/shaped egg mass on your Christmas tree, don’t fret. Clip the branch and put it in your garden. These are 100-200 praying mantis eggs! We had two egg masses on our tree this year. Don’t bring them inside [or] they will hatch and starve!” His message quickly went viral.
The average praying mantis has about a one-year lifespan in the wild, is green or brown in color, lives in areas where they can camouflage themselves like trees and plants — and is 0.5 to 6 inches long, as National Geographic points out.
“I’m a fan of the praying mantis,” said a New York woman, a mother of four. “I’ve never had any in my Christmas tree, but when I see them outside in the warm weather, they make me incredibly happy and I consider it a blessing.”
The praying mantis — sometimes called a walking stick — is a “master of disguise,” as The Old Farmers Almanac points out. “Praying mantis are typically green or brown, but many species will take on the color of their habitat. They may mimic leaves, twigs, grass, and even ants; some tropical species so closely resemble flowers that other insects will land on them in search of nectar.”
The publication also points out this ominous bit of insight: “The strange praying stance is not an act of reverence but instead the position the fierce predators take while waiting to ambush other insects.”
Where do you stand on this issue? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.