Dr. Bug talks Pokemon and why your Christmas tree may be bugged

  • Published: Monday, Jan. 6, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Your Christmas tree may have extra gifts on it instead of under it.

“Some trees come with a bonus gift from nature – praying mantises,” says Tamra Reall, University of Missouri Extension specialist in horticulture.

Reall answers questions from young nature enthusiasts in “Kids Ask Dr. Bug,” a column she writes for Kansas City Gardener magazine.

What is that yucky stuff on my tree?

Praying mantises lay about 100 eggs in foamy masses (called ootheca in Dr. Bug World) on twigs in the fall. The foam hardens and sticks to the bush or tree until warm weather arrives. If one of the masses hitches a ride indoors for the holidays on a tree, you might receive the gift of tiny mantis nymphs.

You can put them in a container and watch these predators. Keep them from eating each other by feeding them small flies or tiny crickets sold at pet stores. “Or better yet, check your tree next year before you bring it in and put oothecae in your garden to protect plants.”

What is Pokémon’s Scyther bug?

“In the Pokémon world, Scyther appears to be like the real praying mantis or even a mantisfly,” says Reall. The two-legged, winged Pokémon with two large scythes as arms hides well with its green color. Its evolved form, Scizor, also is like a praying mantis or mantisfly but looks like a winged red ant as well.

Did you know that the creator of Pokémon was an amateur entomologist (a person who studies insects)? There are currently 90 bug-type Pokémon. Some of Dr. Bug’s favorites are Surskit, Masquerain, Vespiqueen and Yanma.

For more tips on talking to kids about bugs or to send questions, follow @MUExtBugNGarden on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. You may also contact MU Extension Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City at [email protected] or 816-833-TREE (8733), or on Facebook at facebook.com/AskaMissouriMasterGardener.

Photos available for this release:

From left, foamy egg mass, called a ootheca, laid by praying mantis; newly hatched mantis nymphs; adult praying mantis. Photos by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org.

Tamra Reall, horticulture specialist for MU Extension in Jackson County.

Writer: Linda Geist

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Tamra Reall

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