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Are they hiding in your Christmas tree? Bug experts warn about praying mantises

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CHESTERLAND, Ohio (WJW)-- For the Stark family of Painesville, browsing through rows of fresh Christmas trees at Sugar Pines Farms in Chesterland has always been a special tradition.

But last year, their tree purchase at another retailer was anything but festive. Joyce Stark said they had to throw it out because of the bugs.

In addition to spiders potentially hidden in those beautiful balsam firs and scotch pines, what could be mistaken for a crusty-looking pine cone may actually be the egg of a praying mantis.

"The females will lay their eggs on any kind of plant. It's not like their seeking out pine trees to lay their eggs on," said Case Western Reserve biology professor Mark Willis.

Willis said the warmth of your home could spur the eggs to hatch, resulting in 100 baby critters crawling all over those tree ornaments.

"It’s a very rare occurrence, but, sometimes it happens," Willis said.

In September, Sugar Pines posted a picture on its Facebook page of an adult praying mantis in one of their trees.

"I love when I see those little prehistoric creatures. They're awesome for Christmas trees, they eat the kind of bugs we don't want in our trees," said Jane Neubauer, owner.

Not a fan of creepy critters? Well, there are a few things you can do to ensure your tree is bug free before bringing it inside your home. For starters? Give it a good shake.

But, if you should find an egg case, experts said you should clip the branch off and quickly place it in a tree outside for a better chance of survival.

"You have to watch out because otherwise, you might have a surprise all over your house," Stark said.

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