The Surprising Garden Gift on Your Christmas Tree


Photo: istockphoto.com

When I was a nursery manager, I spent each year buying and selling plants, tools, patio furniture and fixtures, and advising customers on all sorts of lawn and garden concerns. After spending some time there, I was always looking forward to the change of pace that the holiday season brought. Reduces nursery inventory to approximately one-tenth of its typical in-store footprint and within a week is a holiday wonderland of poinsettias, tabletop and tree decorations, wreaths, garlands and hundreds of freshly cut Christmas trees to

Unlike Christmas tree farms and many outdoor tree lots, keeping the floor clean becomes one of the major chores when a retail greenhouse turns into a covered Christmas tree forest. Stacked branches, twine and fir needles can be a serious source of slips and trips and should be addressed. In this daily cleanup routine among fallen branches, I discovered a useful resource for my garden: mantis egg casings.

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My ability to recognize these little wonders has been a hard road. One autumn day when I was about nine years old, I saw a walnut-sized bubble knob growing on the stem of a tall grass in the field behind my parents’ house. After separating it from the plant for a closer look, I absentmindedly put it in my pocket. Later that day I showed it to my father who was working at the hut and he explained that it was full of mantis eggs and should not be brought into the house. I left it in the shed.

iStock-1240828118 Christmas Tree Young Mantis Garden Gifts.jpg

Photo: istockphoto.com

On the first warm Saturday of the following spring, when I was sent to take the mower out for the annual oil change, I opened the door to the shed and was shocked to find tiny praying mantis larvae all over the place. My father was not impressed. Eventually, however, the bugs moved out of the building, and I continued to find them creeping around the garden and eating other insects for the rest of that summer.

Mantises are predators that eat small insects such as aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, flies and crickets. Some gardeners consider them bioweapons against pests. Predatory insects help balance plant-eating insect populations, reduce visible garden damage, and eliminate the need to spray insecticides. Mantises are non-toxic and almost completely harmless to humans. However, when antagonized, it can bite defensively.

Adult female praying mantises lay their eggs in the fall before the first frost. This was a few weeks before Christmas when her tree was harvested and taken to the arboretum. She surrounds the egg sac, which can hold 300 eggs, with a whitish or tan foamy foam that hardens quickly to protect the eggs during the winter. called. Eggs usually hatch when the weather warms up in the spring. But things are different when the eggs are stuck to the tree branches of the Christmas tree her farm.

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Wikipedia Christmas Tree Garden Gift Praying_Mantis_Egg_Case

Photo: Dhrm77, CC 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In our Christmas tree lot, we typically find 10-25 oocysts each season from the ~1,500 trees we sell. I collected as many as I could find and either took them home to incubate in my landscape bed or gave them to interested employees and customers along with (usually unsolicited and possibly unnecessary) educational rants. rice field. It’s hard to guess how many other people have gone home without suspicion, clinging to a tree branch.

I never brought mantis eggs indoors again. Hatching is related to temperature, not time. In a warm house, the Ooteka is an egg bomb, releasing hundreds of newly hatched mantis nymphs into the living room. Check if there is an egg sac. Lucky if you find one. Simply remove it from the tree and place it outside in a sheltered area a few feet off the ground.

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