ONE of the most important Christmas traditions is getting and decorating a tree – but experts have warned there could be uninvited guests lurking in the branches.
If you buy a plastic tree then fear not, but if you go for the real deal then be aware that there could be hundreds of insects in your Christmas tree.
People have been warned to look out for a "walnut sized" brown mass on real trees, which many could easily confuse for pine cones.
But rather than a natural decoration, the clumps are actually praying mantis eggs.
The mass contains around 200 baby insects, which if left can see the creepy-crawlies hatch inside your home.
According to National Geographic, praying mantis have an average lifespan of one year in the wild, and can grow up to a terrifying 18 inches long.
A warning was issued on social media, and has resurfaced again as people once again look to buy their yearly Christmas trees.
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Posting a photo on social media, Daniel Reed 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 preying mantis eggs! [sic]
“We had two egg masses on our tree this year – don’t bring them inside they will hatch and starve!”
The egg sacs hatch due to the warmth of the indoors, but the insects starve as they are not near a food source.
Winter is the prime time for insects to swarm people's homes, as they seek shelter from the plummeting temperatures.
Pestnet.com advises: "Spraying insect repellent around the entrance to your home via doors and windows can help deter these insects from entering in the first place.
"Be especially mindful of praying mantises in your home during the hottest and coldest months of the year, as they will seek shelter from extreme temperatures."
If you find one of the clumps, you can cut it out of the tree and place it in a shrub outside where it will hatch in the spring.
But the problem rears its head every year, and numerous people thanked Daniel's urgent warning as they rushed to check their trees.
It looked pretty familiar to one person, who wrote they would immediately: “Go cut this out of our tree!”
One person commented: “Another reason I have a fake tree.”
Another said: “If I start seeing things crawling across the floor I will be gone until after Christmas.”
A third wrote: “If only I knew this last year before they hatched and were all over my walls.”
This person replied: “I had one of these hatch. Tiny tiny praying mantis up my wall.”
'NEVER HAD A LIVE TREE SINCE'
People have also been sharing their horror stories in the run-up to Christmas, with one person posting on Facebook: “A couple years ago the egg case was really hidden because we check our trees well.
“After it was in the house for several weeks they sprang or hatched and yes a couple hundred.”
A long-term problem, one person said: “Been there done that! 1996 – my 9ft tree hatched.
"I had just filled the water trough when I realized.
“Had to drag that thing out to the deck and throw it off myself. I’ve never had a live tree since.”
Not just praying mantis’, but this mum shared another creepy tale, commenting: “My son had a spider nest in his.
“Christmas morning there were millions of tiny spiders all over the tree and house.”
Every Christmas tree can harbor insects, mites, or spiders. Some of these may remain on the tree into winter and could become active after being exposed to the warm temperatures inside the home
The clumps are also a problem across the pond, as the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry revealed that it’s not just praying mantis which could be lurking.
They revealed numerous creepy-crawlies could be hiding in your tree, including adelgids, aphids, bark beetles, mites, barklice, scale insects and spiders.
The department said: “Every Christmas tree can harbour insects, mites, or spiders.
“Some of these may remain on the tree into winter and could become active after being exposed to the warm temperatures inside the home.”
And they warned not to keep a praying mantis egg sac if found.
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They said: “These eggs will begin to hatch after being indoors for several weeks.
“When this happens, numerous tiny mantids swarm over the tree seeking food.
“Since they are cannibalistic they will eat each other if no other food is available.
“It is best to look for the light tan, walnut-sized, frothy egg masses on the tree before it is taken indoors.
“Cut out any small twig with an attached egg mass and place it in an evergreen shrub or tree outdoors.
“In spring, eggs will hatch and the mantids will have appropriate food available.”
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