Facts Matter: Bugs in Christmas tree not a widespread problem
A photo that has been shared on social media over the past few years shows a praying mantis egg case on an evergreen tree branch and claims the insects are commonly found on Christmas trees.
While there can be egg cases on Christmas trees, it is not a common or dangerous problem, and one estimate has it happening in only 1 of 100,000 cut trees, according to Snopes.com.
National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Doug Hundley told Snopes finding a praying mantis egg case in a tree is "very rare."
Hundley said Christmas tree growers have been using a pest management system for nearly 25 years to check for what they call "post-harvest pests or harmless hitchhikers" that can interfere with the health of the tree.
The social media posts began in 2017 when a pest control company said 25,000 insects can live in one tree, Snopes said. But that claim was soon debunked by entomologists.
Susan Haddock, a pest management agent for the University of Florida Agricultural Extension, said she has never seen "a serious problem, or even a minor problem, related to insects on Christmas trees," Snopes reported.
Violent Krampus video all part of the tradition
A video circulating on social media claims a parade in honor of St. Nicholas held in Austria was disrupted by migrants, who were then beaten down by men dressed as Krampus, a mythical half-goat, half-demon beast who hits naughty children with birch branches.
But the Dec. 5 video was actually taken during a Christmas celebration in Vipiteno-Sterzing, a town in northern Italy, and those receiving the beating were not migrants, but rather volunteers in padded clothing taking part in the festival, according to The Associated Press.
"The racist accusations have no bearing in truth. The youth being whipped in the video are friends and acquaintances of the devils of (Italian village) Vipiteno," according to a statement the event organizers posted on Facebook.
Vipiteno-Sterzing Mayor Fritz-Karl Messner told an Italian news outlet that the footage, which at one point shows two Krampus impersonators kicking a man on the ground, could seem strange to outsiders, but it's all part of the Krampus tradition, the AP said.
Krampus, a centuries-old German legend, was created as a counterpart to St. Nicholas, according to National Geographic. Krampus, often depicted with horns, fangs and a long tongue, appears on Dec. 5 to swat misbehaving children or possibly take them away in a sack. The next morning, on the feast of St. Nicholas, good children are rewarded with treats.
Shooter isn't activist Thunberg
A video making the rounds on social media shows a Swedish girl firing an AK-47 and in some posts the teen is identified as environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
The video began circulating earlier this month after Thunberg participated in a climate summit in Madrid, Spain, according to The Associated Press.
"Greta with a gun? Will the hypocritical lefties still support her or is this now a call to arms?" one Facebook user asked.
But the girl shooting the assault rifle is not Thunberg, it's a Swedish youngster named Emmy Slinge, who introduced the video to the internet when she posted it on her Twitter account, the AP said.
Slinge told the AP that she is the shooter in the video, and after she uploaded it there were "unexpected consequences."
"A woman from the Brazilian government took my video, put her own logo on it and used it as part of a campaign against Greta," Slinge said. "It's really very weird."
Her friends have been kidding her about her resemblance to Thunberg, Slinge said on Twitter.
"All this because I look a little like Greta? What strange times we live in," she said.
Bloomberg dance video is satire
A choreographed dance to Panic! at the Disco's "High Hopes" has been performed by supporters at rallies for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
But a recent video showing a group of people moving to Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" while holding signs supporting candidate Mike Bloomberg was not filmed at a rally.
It's a "comedy bit," according to BuzzFeed News.
"Look out #TeamPete because us Bloomberg Heads have our own dance! Taken at the Mike Bloomberg rally in Beverly Hills," Nick Ciarelli posted on Twitter along with a copy of the video.
"Nick is not associated with the campaign," Bloomberg spokeswoman Julie Wood told BuzzFeed.
Ciarelli, who hosts a monthly sketch comedy show, confirmed to BuzzFeed he is not associated with Bloomberg's campaign. He said the video was taken during an Atlantic City show.
"We are not associated with the Bloomberg campaign," Ciarelli said. "We just volunteered our time to make his campaign a viral dance that they didn't seem to appreciate."
• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.