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How to control these and other web-builders

Those white webs expanding in the crotches of cherry, crabapple and Juneberry trees are made by eastern tent caterpillars. Last summer and early fall, the adults laid their eggs in these favorite trees. As the larvae emerge, they spin a web around the nest, giving it protection from the weather. In the evening, the larvae crawl out from under the web to feed on nearby tender young leaves. Just about the time the sun rises, they return to the web for protection. As the population of larvae increases and the larvae increase in size, so does the webbing of the nest.
    As long as the larvae remain under the protection of the web, they are protected from birds and the elements as well as from insecticidal sprays. You will never see birds feasting on these webs. If you poke your finger into one, you will see why birds do not bother them.
    “The defoliation usually does little damage to trees, and rarely do trees die from an infestation,” says Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder.
    The lack of damage is due to timing. Because the caterpillars hatch as soon as the young leaves unfurl in the spring, the tree has put little energy into the leaves and typically re-foliates in June, seemingly no worse for wear.
    Do not try to control the eastern tent caterpillar by torching the nests. Torching with a flaming kerosene-soaked rag tied to the end of a pole is not only dangerous but also causes permanent damage to the tree.
    The best method of control is to spray the foliage nearest the web with an organic pesticide such as Thurcide or Dipel. These pesticides contain the BT bacteria that kill the feeding larvae from the inside out. They are approved for use by organic gardeners. To obtain maximum effectiveness, apply in the evening to the foliage in the feeding area. A single application will provide protection for three to four days; it will take a few days before you see evidence of the treatment. The smaller the larvae, the better the control. As the larvae grow larger, they become more difficult to kill with BT.
    Use a fresh supply of these organic pesticides, not an unused portion from last year. Once the bottle is open, the effectiveness decreases with time. Unless you are going to be using them to control other pests in your garden, such as cabbage loopers, bagworms or corn-ear worms, purchase the smallest container possible.
    In mid to late summer, you’ll see similar webs on a wide variety of woody plants. These are created by the fall webworm. The same treatments can be used to control these pests. In July, you may also see webs on two-needle pines such as Virginia pine and mugo pine. To control the pine sawfly creating them, you’d need the hard pesticide Sevin.


Is My Compost Safe to Use?

Q I shredded some sunflowers in my composter this past fall. I forgot that they are like walnut trees and put out a mild toxin that can negatively affect other plants. Can I use this ­compost? Or should I just throw it out?

–Mike Morgan, Bowie

A The composting process destroys the enzymes that cause the allelopathic effect, so you can use your compost.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

With Bay Weekly’s Last-Minute Camp Guide

What to do with the kids this summer takes on new urgency as summer advances from someday to next month. So for parents, Bay Weekly’s Last-Minute Camp Guide offers solutions.
    Giving them direction is an important goal, but it’s by no means the only goal of this issue. There’s value here for each of us.
    For kids, their parents’ choice is much more than childcare. Camp is often our children’s maiden voyage into a wider world. As you’ll remember from your reading of children’s books, the adventure starts when parents are absent.
    Camps nowadays are many and varied, as you’ll see in this guide, but they all follow the no-parents rule — and in a different way than school. Teachers in most schools are legally bound in loco parentis. Camp counselors also have responsibilities of care and guidance, but they’re supposed to be buddies, too, and bring on the fun. So kids get to know almost-grown-ups in a new way. At the same time, they’re exploring new environments and developing new powers for navigating, for example, the latest highlight of outdoor camps, zip lines.
    You don’t snap on a harness and zoom through thin air in school. In camp you do, discovering new muscles, skills and dimensions to your personality. So the choices parents make for their kids’ summer camps are about more than a few days or weeks; they’re about lifetimes. This guide opens the door to hundreds of choices for parents and as many directions for kids as a tree has branches.
    For no-longer kids, this guide is fantasy camp, ­reviving memories of adventures you’ve had and opening adventures that can be yours in mind as well, perhaps, as in body.
    Read in another way, the Camp Guide makes a great short course in American Studies. Back-to-nature camps are but one variety, nowadays called traditional, of the diverse species of modern camps. Many others are skill-building camps that can be as intense as baseball’s spring training. Specialty camps range from sports, arts and crafts, drama and dance to science. Many get very specific. At Camp Hidden Meadows, for example, kids delve into GoPro Video production, culinary and performing arts, organic gardening and yoga.
    Adults can daydream of camp adventures. But kids don’t go to camp to wander Huck Finn-style in chance and imagination. We send our camp-bound kids to structured experiences designed to improve them.
    If you, like me, have been provoked by The Big Read to rediscover Tom Sawyer, you too may be feeling his envy of Huckleberry as a boy who “came and went, at his own free will.”
    That “romantic outcast … slept on doorsteps in fine weather and in empty hogsheads in wet; we did not have to go to school or to church, or call any being master or obey anybody; he could go fishing or swimming when and where he chose, and stay as long as it suited him. … In a word, everything that goes to make life precious, that boy had.”
    So send your kid to camp. But leave a little free time for the kids — and yourself as well.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Who watches the watchmen?

The Avengers have united twice to save the world. Collateral damage has been considerable. Cities have been razed, which makes the team controversial.
    Some still think of the Avengers as heroes. But fear of the omnipotents is growing. After another mission goes wrong, killing civilians, the governments of the world decide that the time of freelance superheroes has come to an end. The Avengers must submit to a multi-government regulatory committee or be classified as hostile mercenaries.
    Wracked with guilt over the deaths he’s caused both as a weapons manufacturer and as Ironman, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.: Avengers: Age of Ultron) supports the regulatory commission. Ant Man Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) believes the team should be trusted to do what’s right. Sides are chosen.
    When a bombing kills the king of Wakanda, implicating one of the Avengers, they are soon at war with each other.
    Who will win when the greatest powers on earth collide? Worse, who will lose?
    Fast, loud and extremely entertaining, Captain America: Civil War demonstrates yet again that Marvel (and parent company Disney) are leagues ahead of rival DC at the movies. The film masterfully incorporates a complex plot, introduces two new franchises and offers enough charm to forgive the plot holes.
    You get ample time with beloved characters, including Cap, Ironman and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson: The Jungle Book). And you get new members of the expanding Marvel Universe: ­Spider-Man (Tom Holland: In the Heart of the Sea) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman: Gods of Egypt). As Spider-Man, Holland accomplishes the heretofore impossible task of making Peter Parker both charming and a believable teenager. His interactions with Tony, who recruits him to the new Avengers, are some of the film’s brightest, lightest spots.
    As the vengeful prince of Wakanda, Boseman succeeds in his slightly heavier role with Black Panther, balancing anger with cocky charm. A slick costume, interesting motivation and the promise of a new country to explore help make him a likeable new ally for the Avengers.
    Tone is the film’s weak spot. It can be jarring to see these character quip and laugh one minute, then brutally beat each other. Because the film is a blockbuster-friendly PG-13, none of this violence has real consequences, and there’s barely any blood.
    Captain America: Civil War is the perfect popcorn movie, filled with action, funny lines and charismatic characters who will win over audiences and sell merchandise.

Great Action • PG-13 • 146 mins.

Plants are survivors

The spring of 2016 will be remembered as a short spring and a very short summer followed by a short fall — all within four weeks between March and April. Those 70-degree days in mid March stimulated the vegetative buds in many woody ornamentals to swell, causing the winter bud scales to drop to the ground. This left the buds susceptible to damage by freezing temperatures.
    Some Bay Weekly readers have reported buds on their hydrangeas turning brown and drooping, which has never happened before. Others have reported that the new growth on their Euonymus shrubs is turning white and wilting. Others have reported that that frosty nights have caused their American hollies to develop yellow leaves that drop to the ground. They seem to forget that hollies lose their leaves in spring as they start to grow new leaves. The difference is that this year, the transition from old to new is occurring earlier than ­normal.  
    The peach crop will most likely be sparse this year because most of the trees were in full bloom when the frost hit. Once flower petals begin to unfurl, they lose their cold-hardiness. Late-blooming varieties will produce peaches because their flower buds were still closed at the time of the last frost.
    Early asparagus spears wilted to the ground in the section of the garden where I had tilled the soil to control weeds. Where the garden was not freshly tilled and the soil was firm, the early spears were not affected. The difference is due to the heat loss from the soil, which provides frost protection. Where the surface soil was loose, there was not sufficient heat retention to provide frost protection close to the ground. I have seen similar results in gardens where the asparagus beds are mulched. The mulch prevents heat loss from the ground, resulting in the early-rising spears vulnerable to frost.
    But plants are survivors. By the first of June, everything will just about look the same, regardless of late-frost damage.

Planting Schedule
    If you are anxious to get dirt under your fingernails, this is the time for planting potatoes, onions, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, radishes, kohlrabi, cauliflower, spinach and bak-choi.
    Delay planting tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash and cucumbers until the second week in May. If you are using stakes or cages to grow your tomatoes, remember to spray them thoroughly with a 10 percent bleach solution before installing them. There is evidence that spores of blight on last year’s tomato plants can over-winter on the stakes and cages.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Abundance is the rule on the Argentina Plains

The first bird to approach our floating decoy spread was massive. Its seven-foot wingspread and three-foot beak were also signals that the the creature was not among our intended species. Our guide, Federico, emphasized the situation by whispering, “No tiro, est un jabiru.”
    I stumbled with my Spanish, so our guide tried his English. “No shoot, is the bird that brings the babies.”
    It was a stork. And big enough to carry quintuplets.
    Just after sunrise with temps only a bit above freezing, we were crouched in a waterfowl blind within a large natural drainage system in the La Pampa Province of the Argentina Plains. Because of the earth’s tilt on its axis in relation to the sun, the Southern Hemisphere’s seasons are opposite of the Northern Hemisphere. Our Northern spring is when their Southern duck seasons begins.
    My longtime friend and sporting partner Mike Kelly and I were in one hide, my two elder sons were in another, and Mike’s traveling companions, Jeff and Suzie Boot from the Isle of Man, were in a third.
    La Pampa is a vast, scarcely populated agricultural area with massive acreages devoted to corn, soybeans, sorghum, rice, barley, sunflowers, cattle and sheep. It greatly resembles our Midwestern Plains but with a distinction. It is more like the Midwest of a hundred years ago.
    The ecological systems of freshwater drainage ponds and lakes that in America were leveled and plowed under during the last century remain untouched in Argentina. Those two differences, fewer people and unspoiled terrain, provide vast fertile areas for birds and waterfowl. It is a bird and bird lovers’ paradise.
    We hunted (and observed) for about three hours that morning, and harvested a colorful bag of ducks that eventually included rosy-billed pochards; white-faced and fulvous whistlers; yellow-billed and white-cheeked pintails; cappuccino, speckled, cinnamon and Brazilian teals; and Chiloe widgeon. The fowl were as delicious as they were beautiful.
    The afternoons in La Pampa were devoted to dove shooting, a specialty of the Argentina Plains. A number of dove species exist there, especially the eared dove, and because of their fecundity and the mildness of the long breeding season, their populations maintain well over 100 million. One pair of doves lays only two eggs, but the fledglings emerge in little over two weeks, reach maturity quickly and produce a number of hatches themselves within the same season. That can mean hundreds of eventual offspring from the original grain-eating pair each year. To help control their numbers and alleviate pressure on agriculture, the dove-hunting season in Argentina is open year-round.
    These small birds are as delicious as the ducks. Any birds or waterfowl not consumed by our hunting party were intended for delivery to local social services by our outfitters.
    It was great to adventure in an ecological system so abundant that our activities had no discernable effect.

Whence such a name?

What happened across the Bay at Kent Island to give Bloody Point and the Bloody Point Lighthouse that chilling name?
    Nobody knows — for certain.
    How’s that?
    “Many of the names of locations have been lost over time due to the fact that ownership changes hands,” explains Maya Davis of the Maryland State Archives. “Often time new owners change the name of the property.”
    Nonetheless, there are stories. Christopher Haley, research director for the ­History of Slavery in Maryland for the Maryland State Archives, outlines the top contenders.
    Story 1: In the early days of the colonies, the land that would become known as Kent Island was inadvertently given to two people who represented two colonies — one from Maryland and the other from Virginia. The mistake, unnoticed until one had established a town, led to a bloody scrimmage.
    Story 2: Native Americans were massacred at the point. Supposedly, the Native Americans were invited to an interview with the colonists who killed them without warning.
    Story 3: A pirate convicted of stealing a small boat and killing the three crewmembers was executed and his body hung at Bloody Point to warn others against such crimes.
    Story 4: The point was a place where slave ships threw ailing captives overboard. This heinous practice has been documented in other places, so it could have occurred in the Bay.
    All the stories are bloody, but what’s the truth?


Chesapeake Curiosities investigates regional oddities and landmarks to increase understanding of our unique local culture and history. Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to chesapeakecuriosities@gmail.com.

Happy Mothers Day to Linne’s two-toed sloth Ivy

Does Hallmark make cards for sloth mothers? Not likely, so let’s send a special Happy Mother’s Day wish to Ivy at the National Aquarium. Ivy, a Linne’s two-toed sloth, gave birth to a baby girl, named Fern, two weeks ago.
    The baby sloth is the newest ­addition to the Upland Tropical Rain Forest and the sixth sloth born at the National Aquarium.
    “We’re thrilled to welcome Fern,” says Ken Howell, curator of the Rain Forest exhibits.
    Mother and daughter are doing so well that they’re back home in the exhibit. But you’ll have to look sharp to spot them. Sloths are well camouflaged.
    Ivy came to the exhibit in 2007 from a captive breeder. She gave birth to Felize in 2015, Scout in 2013, Camden in 2012 and now Fern.
    Baby sloths tend to be a bit on the clingy side. They start eating solid foods within a couple of weeks after birth but remain with their mother for nearly a year. Fully grown, Linne’s two-toed sloths will reach the size of a small dog, about 12 to 20 pounds. When she’s ready, baby Fern will be fed a diet of green beans, sweet potatoes, grapes and other fruits. It can take up to a month for a sloth to digest a single meal. Now you understand where the term sloth got its meaning.
    In the wild, this species is common in South America’s rain forests, where they spend their lives among the treetops, mostly hanging from their four-inch claws. With two claws on their front feet and three on the back, these nocturnal creatures are ideally designed for life in the canopy. They can sleep up to 20 hours a day. Sloths even mate and give birth while hanging upside-down.
    Linne’s two-toed sloths are not endangered like their cousins, the maned three-toed sloth and pygmy three-toed sloth. All sloths are however threatened by continued habitat loss and fragmentation of forests, which forces them to come to the ground to travel to additional trees. On the ground, they become easy prey and face injury and death trying to cross roadways.

It’s complicated

Except for Eve (and Adam) — as former Maryland poet laureate Michael Glaser points out in this week’s paper — every one of us has a mother.

remembering to Eve, try to imagine …

how she never knew a mother
or the fruit of a kind and nurturing hand.

    In turn, every one of us is a son or daughter. As the seven-year CBS standard-setting series The Good Wife ends on Mother’s Day, my thoughts turn to what it means to be a good daughter.
    “That’s ultimate praise,” I said the other day to a friend whose 94-year-old mother shares her home.
    “Do you think so?” she said, perhaps feeling the weight of obligation.
    With my mother 28 years dead, the weight I feel is regret. I feel the regret of missing her — and the regret of having been a very imperfect daughter. For what she wanted most was to be understood in her own terms. That I could not do when she was alive and ­kicking.
    For children, a great shadow blocks the light of understanding. We are throwing that shadow. Only a very little light passes around the child to illuminate the person on the other side of the mother-child relationship. Her motherhood is so central to our child that we can’t see beyond it to whoever she is besides our mother.
    Mother-blindness is not mine alone. That’s a ­discovery I made reading the poems that make up our Mother’s Day feature.
    In calling them to me, I made no hypothesis, primed no pump. I simply sat down on the floor to surround myself with the books of poetry on a small bottom shelf. Many of the thin books there are the brainchildren of local poets. T’was them I addressed, as well as one or two more whose poems I know by ear rather than eye.
    Will you contribute a poem? I asked each. My only stricture: It must be about — ideally to — your mother.
    Most sent single poems, and I printed what I got.
    How often these mothers appear in the shadow of the child!
    Or emerging from that shadow, as in Glaser’s irresistible A Blessing for My Mother, one of the half dozen poems he offered for this issue

Though she drove me to the brink,
it wasn’t ’till I got there, I think,

that I finally understood:
what she aimed for was good.

Blessed be her intent
Blessed be what she meant.

    Read them in the feature story Better Than Hallmark, and you’ll see what I mean.
    Still, I think you’re in for another surprise — as I was. All together, they cover quite a bit of the sublimely complicated relationship of mother and child. Ranging from three lines to 33, each — being a poem — has more to say than is readily apparent. Though some will tease and fret you with elusive meaning, you’ll feel what they say. Poetry is good for complicated emotions because it doesn’t reduce them to abstractions.
    Have you figured out the terms of your unique partnership in this universal condition?
    In other words, what does your mother mean to you and you to her?
    The simplest answer: It’s complicated.
    No wonder so many people buy greeting cards to speak in their stead.
    To try your own, follow this feature with What’s a Mother For, on how grieving granddaughter Janice Lynch Schuster used drawings to tap into motherlove.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

An absurdist retelling of a surreal moment in American history

A man shows up at the White House and asks to see the president. The request gives pause to the secret service, as the man is Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
    The whole situation is bizarre. One day in 1970, Elvis flew to Washington, D. C., to meet President Nixon and ask him for a badge making him an undercover federal officer at large. The King, apparently, had decided he was the best way to combat the threat of communism. His plan was to go to communist meetings and parties where drugs were sold, collect information on the key players and convince kids to forswear drugs while embracing patriotism.
    It sounds crazy, but friends are used to The King’s whims.
    The president, on the other hand, thinks this plan sounds as screwy as Elvis himself. Staunch conservative Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey: House of Cards) sneers at popular culture. He has no interest in Elvis, despite his staff’s pleas that a meeting might win the youth vote. Only when his daughter demands an autograph does Nixon agree to the meeting.
    When The King meets The President, what happens?
    A funny fictionalization of the infamous meeting, Elvis & Nixon offers insight into both characters. Director Liza Johnson (Hateship Loveship) wisely chose to let the actors carry the movie. There’s little fancy camera work. Except for a few inspired montages of period-accurate footage, it’s all about Shannon and Spacey. Rather than mimic their famous counterparts with silly impressions, the actors offer genuine performances.
    As Richard Nixon, Spacey shines. He creates a grumbling president more interested in taking a nap than winning over American youth. Blustering through hackneyed dialog and ensemble scenes, Spacey continues his run of magnificent jerks.
    Shannon has the harder task of capturing the essence of Elvis. He succeeds by imbuing the King with the childlike simplicity of a man who can’t comprehend a world that does not bow to his whims.
    The two finally meet in a classic comedy of errors. Both believe they’re in charge, and both have a reason to assume so. Spacey and Shannon dance around each other in a delightful ballet of ticks and quirks as they goad each other to new and greater heights.
    It’s worth the ticket price to see this entertaining riff on an odd footnote in history on the big screen as two acting greats battle it out.

Good Comedy • R • 86 mins.

Crowded bulbs are smaller bulbs and produce smaller flowers

As the trumpets of daffodil petals herald spring, we see clumps growing in roadside banks as well as in gardens. Pretty as they are, the flowers in those large clumps are not as large as those of single plants or smaller clumps. Crowded bulbs are smaller bulbs and thus produce smaller flowers due to a lower reserve of food.
    Professional gardeners dig up and thin out clumps of daffodils every five or six years. This practice allows them to not only maintain flower size but to also expand plantings.
    If you would like to lift and thin your bulbs, now is the time to take the first step. First, use a large plant label or planting stake with a weatherproof tag to mark the location of each clump to be dug, and identify its flower color.    After the foliage dies down to the ground, give the blubs a couple of more weeks to mature. Foliage will die more slowly in clumps growing under partial shade than those growing in full sun.
    To minimize damage to the bulbs, use a fork spade for digging and lifting out the bulbs. Start digging at least three or four inches away from the ring of dead foliage. Lift the bulbs and spread them on the ground to dry in the full sun for an hour or so. After the soil on the bulbs has dried, remove it by rubbing gently with your hands. Avoid damaging the tunic, the thin papery covering on the bulbs. Do not attempt to separate the bulbs from each other at this time.
    After harvesting, spread the bulbs on a flat surface in a well-ventilated room under cover to finish drying for a few weeks. Then place them in mesh bags or screen storage trays, and store them in a cool, dry place protected from rodents.
    In September, plant the bulbs where you want them to bloom next spring.


Is salt damage reversable?

Q Is there any way to compensate for winter salt damage to trees and ­bushes? Also affected is the grass strip ­paralleling the road.

–Farley Peters, Fairhaven

A Most of the damage caused by salt is due to salinity, which kills plant roots. If the sodium level in the soil is equal to or higher than that of potassium, then the damage is more likely related to nutrition. Have the soil tested to see if there is sufficient potassium.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.