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SYFY WIRE insects

TikTok Video Shows Hundreds of Praying Mantises Emerging from a Christmas Tree

How the Mantises Ruined Christmas.

By Cassidy Ward
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

No one likes unannounced and uninvited holiday guests. First appearing in Dr. Seuss’ classic 1957 children’s story How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch has become a symbol of bah-humbuggery and emotional growth. Over the following 66 years, the Grinch has appeared in a number of forms, both animated and live action, on page and screen. His most recent feature film appearance (not counting last year's unofficial horror adaptation The Mean One) was in Illumination’s The Grinch (streaming now on Peacock). Now, a different green creature is making a move for the holiday havoc throne.

Hundreds of Baby Mantises Make for an Unexpected Christmas Gift

With Halloween and Thanksgiving behind us, many people have shifted into winter holiday mode, triggering the annual spike in sales of real and artificial pine trees. The time of year spurred a memory for TikTok user andeekitty, who posted a series of images in a looping 9-second video featuring dozens of tiny, freshly hatched praying mantises crawling over an indoor Christmas tree.

The incident occurred back in 2018 when Andrea Coward (andeekitty) brought home a recently harvested Christmas tree. Once the tree was inside, the family noticed a mantis egg sac attached to a branch. They removed the branch in question and placed it outside, according to Newsweek, but there must have been a second egg bundle they missed.

RELATED: Praying Mantises Stay Alive by Scaring the You-Know-What Out of Predators

A green praying mantis climbing on a pine tree

Roughly two and a half weeks later, the mantids apparently finished their incubation period and emerged in force, carrying out an all-out assault on the Coward home. Dozens of tiny six-legged assassins began spilling out all over the tree, the floor, and the surrounding area. The family had to scramble with a vacuum cleaner in a mad dash to gather them all up. While the precise number of babies is unclear, the family estimates there were at least a few hundred.

Mantids typically mate in the fall, after which the females lay between 10 and 400 eggs, depending on the species. Those eggs are usually deposited on a plant in a bundle, wrapped around a branch in a cylinder, or buried underground. Eggs come out in a liquidy froth which later hardens into a protective egg capsule. Under ordinary conditions, they incubate slowly over the course of the winter and hatch when things warm up in the spring.

Mantid egg case attached to plant

Finding mantis eggs on Christmas trees is actually relatively common, according to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Mantises don’t recognize capitalism and can’t differentiate between wild and commercial trees. They thought they were hanging out in the elements; we’re the ones who keep bringing them inside.

If you discover an egg sac on your Christmas tree (or any other indoor plant) it’s recommended that you remove the branch and attach it to an overwintering shrub. Placed back in the elements, the egg sac will continue along its ordinary developmental path and hatch in the spring, the babies none the wiser. Keeping the egg sac inside where it’s warm can trigger premature hatching and a domestic insectoid invasion.

Considering everything we know mantids are capable of, the Grinch doesn’t really seem all that bad. Invite him to your holiday celebrations in The Grinch, streaming now on Peacock.

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