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Turn on the blooms with Bloom

To keep plants in hanging baskets growing and flowering for two months or more, dump one-half cup of Bloom in a single lump on an eight-inch diameter hanging basket, or one cup for a 10-inch basket. At each irrigation, pour water onto the mound of Bloom. As the water flows through the Bloom, it absorbs nutrients and makes them available to the roots of the plants.


Trying to Make a Better Rain Garden

www.bayweekly.com/RainGarden-072017

Q    I just read your July 20 column Make a Better Rain Garden and have a couple of questions.
    I built a pond, near my house in rural Prince Frederick about 20 years ago. It is 100-by-60 feet and has a heavy-duty, one-piece, rubber liner under a foot or two of sand (and now, an additional 20 years of organic muck). The depth varies from one foot (a ledge along the edges) to six feet in the middle. It has two pumps, and I planted it out with native plants — arrowhead, pickerelweed, spatterdock, native water lilies — and added fish.
    I have been renting the house for eight years. The renter (with my blessing) has ignored the pond. It still holds water but is a slimy mess, has shrubs and small trees crowding around the edges and is basically going back to nature.
    I will be moving back soon. I am older now and have no interest in the maintenance required to keep the pond healthy. I have been thinking about my options: from doing nothing to filling it in and planting grass on top. Then I read your article … maybe a rain garden?
    I also don’t have the energy or budget to do it right (as you describe in the article). Is there a quick and dirty option? One that will require minimal work and still provide some of the benefits?
    For example: what if I cleared the jungle from the edges, drained the pond, let the muck dry out, drilled some holes through the liner, filled the hole with decent soil and planted native plants?
    If I go the rain garden route, do you have a list (or website) of native plants that might work in a Maryland rain garden? And maybe where to buy them?
    I always enjoy your articles.

–Steve Farrell, Broomes Island

A    My suggestion is to drain the pond, use a power auger to drill holes through the membrane and below and fill the holes with pine bark mulch. Based on your submitted pictures, I would plant bald cypress, available from the state forest nursery, deciduous holly, alder and cattails.


Grass Isn’t Always the Answer

Q    I need your expert advice. I have a street strip of grass nine feet wide and 18 feet long, separate from other parts of my yard that have pretty grass.
    I have been very frustrated watering that strip. A little silver dollar-size sprayer attached to a hose sprays a circle in one spot and takes forever to water areas like this.
    I looked at hoses with holes in it that I could use in the center of the area.
    What would you suggest?

–Ruth Gross, Bowie

A    Why don’t you forget about growing a lawn between the sidewalk and the curb and plant ground cover — junipers or Saint John's Wort, vinca major or vinca minor — something that will not need to be irrigated or mowed. Ground cover juniper is extremely drought-resistant, likes full sun and is nearly maintenance free. If you plant through landscape fabric, you will not even have to weed.


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

Holly Lanzaron’s picture tells a whole story of a new family

Amid the ordinary, Holly Lanzaron chanced upon the extraordinary. In a shopping center parking lot in Deale, on the crushed stone, a mother killdeer sat hatching four speckled eggs.
    “We didn’t know that she was nesting right away,” said the Southern Middle-Schooler on Deale Elks Club’s sponsored photo safari with Muddy Creek Artists Guild mentor Bea Poulin and Hannah Dove. “At first we thought that the bird was wounded and could not fly.”
    Strange as the sight seemed, it’s not strange for killdeer. The mid-sized plover whose name imitates its cry loves open areas. You see these long-legged birds scampering across lawns, golf courses and, yes, parking lots. For nesting, they like the ground, dirt or rocks and belly out a little depression to which twigs might later be added, as you see in Holly’s photo.
    To protect her open-air nest, Mother Killdeer uses several strategies. Thus, as she noticed the approaching trio, Holly recalls, “she let out a really loud scream that hurt our ears.”
    Another strategy is the broken-wing feign, also displayed in Holly’s photo.
    “We did end up spooking her,” Holly says, “but she did not want to leave her eggs.”
    To photograph the brooding bird, Holly “shot from a distance and zoomed in really close.
    “It was one of my best photographs,” says the young shutterbug, “and I am proud of it. The bird has eggs under her, and this shows she is starting a family.”
    Look at Holly’s picture, and you’ll know exactly how killdeer look: red-rimmed eye, mottled brown head and wings, white breast, two distinctive black neck rings and unfeathered three-toed feet. You’ll also see her habitat and brooding behavior. It’s quite a story this picture tells.

Hannah Dove, Bea Poulin and Holly ­Lanzaron. While on the Deale Elks’ photo safari, Lanzaron photographed this mother killdeer in a parking lot.

Though not Bay natives, channel catfish are worth an angler’s time

Despite a firm New Year’s resolution to rise earlier during the hot summer months to take advantage of the cooler dawn hours when the rockfish are on the hunt, I once again failed to get out of bed and on the water until 8am. The day by then was already heating up and the striper bite a memory.
    Unwilling to brave the heat and the daytime crowds chumming, I decided to focus on white perch with ultra-light tackle since the tides would remain favorable until at least noon. I was only a little sorry I wouldn’t be tussling with some heavier adversaries. But surprises were in store for me that morning.
    I was casting along a rocky shoreline to the remnants of an old lengthy bulkhead that had succumbed to storm erosion and age. Submerged rotting wood attracts grass shrimp and small minnows to feed on the decaying timbers, and that attracts and holds white perch.
    Having already put two or three bulky white perch on ice and released another half-dozen lesser-sized scrappers, I was settling into a relaxed rhythm of casting to clearly visible areas near the more substantial bulkhead remains and enjoying the action. Then my spinner bait stopped dead from a heavy strike.
    Lifting my rod smartly and expecting another spirited tussle, I was met with a strong and determined run against my firmly set drag. For the first few seconds I dreamed of a state-record white perch. When the run continued into the distance, I began thinking of a hefty rockfish. The power and determination of a striper’s run was there, but not the speed, so eventually I had to cross a keeper rock off my list of possibilities.
    When the fish finally paused, I recovered some line. Almost immediately, it took off again. Trying to slow its progress stretched my six-pound mono dangerously close to failure. Eventually the fish paused, only to continue resisting with intermittent rushes in random directions.
    I took my time. When the fish made a rush anywhere near my direction, I applied as much pressure as I could to lead it closer. Then the beast started crossing, again and again, under my hull, using my own boat against me.
    I could do little to stop that tactic. It was only chance that kept my line away from my outboard. I was on borrowed time. At last, stressing my light five-foot spin rod till its cork creaked, I netted a fat and healthy 25-inch channel catfish.
    It was the first of three I would put in my cooler that morning, losing a fourth to my outboard.
    The most numerous catfish in North America, the channel cat’s wide popularity as a sport and table fish has made it the official state fish of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee. Channel cats have whiskers, deeply forked tails and golden brown flanks with small dark spots. It’s a species introduced to Maryland via the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers but becoming an increasingly appreciated addition to the Chesapeake’s seafood cornucopia.
    The Maryland record of 29 pounds 10 ounces is held by Kevin Kern at Mattawoman Creek, but the whiskered rowdies can reach up to 60 pounds. Channel cats are generally caught in the three-to-five-pound size on the Chesapeake, but their average size is likely to increase as they become more numerous.
    The Chester is the most highly regarded river for chasing catfish in this area, but cats are found with increasing frequency in all of the Chesapeake’s tributaries, particularly around laydowns (fallen trees) and derelict docks and pilings. They also show up in mainstem chum slicks — much to the surprise of those targeting rockfish.
    Cleaning these catfish for the table requires a different technique than most of our sport-fish, as all catfish need to be skinned rather than scaled. These fish produce thick, succulent and boneless fillets with little effort.

Here’s what you need to have fun

Afish caught on the fly is easily twice as much fun as one caught any other way. Right now is an ideal time to fish the long rod for rockfish and white perch.

The first rule is to leave your conventional tackle at home. If you’ve decided to use the fly rod, it’s best to be fully committed.

A nine-foot, eight-weight rod is a good allaround stick. It can handle just about any sized striper you’re apt to encounter and will still allow a decentsized perch to show its stuff. Choose a floating line as it is relatively easy to cast and can handle such weighted flies as the Clouser minnow or surface poppers as the Blados Crease Fly.

You’ll be targeting areas no more than five feet deep to rocky  shorelines, jetties, bulkheads, piers and docks where stripers and perch hold. As you may lose a few flies to these structures (or else you’re not casting close enough), be sure you have an adequate supply.

The Clouser minnow in sizes No. 1 and larger, in chartreuse over white, is the most popular pattern and color on the Chesapeake for striped bass. However, any fly, both floating and sinking, can produce a strike, especially anything two to four inches long that resembles a minnow or a grass shrimp.

When fishing after dark or on overcast days, nothing beats a black weighted Lefty’s Deceiver crept across the bottom.

For rockfish, leaders can be on the heavy side. Rockfish aren’t typically leader shy, and you will be plying waters strewn with rocks, boulders, timbers or the remnants of steel or concrete structures. Heavier tippets can withstand lots of abrasion both from the fish and the environment. I recommend a short (four- to five-foot) monofilament leader plus 18 inches of at least 15-pound tippet.

You may also make your own leaders by blood-knotting together a threefoot butt section of 30-pound mono to two feet of 20-pound and ending this with a loop knot, which is then easily joined, loop to loop, with a 12- to 18-inch section of your 15- to 20-pound tippet.

If you are targeting white perch specifically, use a lighter leader, constructed similarly to the above but in a 25-15-8 pound mono combination. Flies for perch should also be on the smaller side, with those tied on a No. 2 hook the largest. Shorter fly rods from six feet up can also increase the sport with perch. But lines less than five-weight may cause casting difficulties with heavier, bulkier flies.

A chartreuse-over-white Clouser minnow in sizes No. 2 to No. 6 is an excellent choice for perch. Other great picks are a bead head, Crystal Wooly Bugger or a Crystal Shrimp in pearl, tan, rootbeer or chartreuse. A traditional fly rod lure such as the Hidebrandt Flicker Spin is especially deadly in shallow water. Don’t hesitate to add a small split shot in front of your fly or lure to get it close to the bottom.

If you can pick your days, overcast skies with a solid high tide in the morning and low wind predictions are just about perfect for both rockfish and perch. Both species like the upper phases of the tide when they visit the shallows. Using an electric engine, poling or — at the least — practicing extreme noise discipline will result in larger fish of both species as the older, smarter fish are very shy of noise when they are in the skinny water.

My model is good enough for the National Botanical Garden

The purpose of rain gardens is to reduce surface runoff by capturing water in ponds where it can infiltrate the soil. Many rain gardens begin with dug ponds lined with sand and gravel. Water-tolerant plants added in and around the ponds absorb more water.
    This design can absorb only a limited amount of water based on the soil porosity, a measure of texture and compaction. After a heavy rain, water can stand for days and weeks, so the gardens become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Even tolerant plant species have problems surviving standing water.
    There’s also a septic smell to some newly constructed rain gardens. The odor is caused by soils containing more than three percent organic matter, which is typical with a manufactured medium with compost blended in. When soils and materials rich in organic matter are water-logged, they undergo anaerobic digestion, resulting in odor.

Getting It Right
    A well-designed and constructed rain garden should not retain water for more than a couple of days and should promote the growth of plants tolerant to wet soil conditions. Soil for its bottom should contain only well decomposed organic matter, not freshly made compost.
    Here’s how to meet both those goals.
    Water absorbing capacity can be significantly increased by either auguring holes in the bottom of the rain garden during construction or by trenching.
    If the rain garden is big enough to accommodate a power trencher, trenches four feet wide and up to four feet deep should be dug at 18- to 24-inch intervals across the bottom of the pond.
    Fill trenches with pine fines in 12-inch lifts. Pack the pine fines using a eight-foot four-by-four timber between each lift until the trenches are filled. Finally, place a covering of sand or gravel over the bottom of the pond.
    In small ponds, augur four- to 10-inch diameter holes spaced about 18 inches apart to a depth of three to four feet. Fill the holes with pine fines in 12-inch lifts and packed similarly. Cover the bottom as above.
    Pine fines are the fine particles that collect in the manufacture of pine bark mulch. They contain 100 percent lignins, which resist decomposition. When buried deep in the soil and covered with sand or gravel, they will not generate odors. Pine fines are also a rich source of humic and fulvic acids. Both of these naturally occurring acids will help loosen the soil, allowing it to absorb more water. Further, the pine fines will serve as a wick, pulling water down where it can be better absorbed.
    Augering or trenching deep into the sub-soil greatly increases its absorbing capacity. This system also increases the surface area and water-absorbing capacity of the soil.
    To accommodate plants in the pond, place a four- to six-inch layer of a sandy loam soil with two to three percent natural organic matter over the layer of sand or gravel. Never amend the soil with perlite or vermiculite. Perlite will deteriorate into slime after several years of freezing and thawing. Vermiculite flattens into plate-like particles in only six to eight months after they have absorbed water.
    I have used this system many times and never had a failure. The largest project I was involved in was the National Botanic Garden at the base of Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. Following heavy rains, the existing water gardens overflowed into the gardens. To increase the water garden’s ability to absorb more water, we augered 10-inch holes in the bottom to a depth of five feet at 24-inch intervals. The holes were packed and the bottom covered with gravel as described.


Apologies to Flint, Michigan

    In my June 29 column, The Poop on Biosolids, I wrote “Unless the biosolids come from Flint, Michigan, the lead levels in Class A biosolids are far below EPA standards in Compro, Orgro and Earthlife. The same is true for cadmium.”
    A Bay Weekly online reader in Flint who is knowledgeable about the biosolids has corrected me. He has assured me that Flint is generating Class A biosolids. The assumption that I made was based on the research I did with biosolids from Baltimore in the late 1970s before Mayor Schaffer cleaned up the sewer system. I apologize for making that assumption.


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

It’s not all peanuts and mints for the Naval Academy’s Bill the Goat

The Naval Academy’s mascot is a fighting goat. That goat’s name is Bill, after a pet kept by the first president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association. The emblematic mascot is fashioned after the actual animal as embodied over the years by more than 37 goats. The first goat was only a skin, the remainder of a loved ship goat, and worn by naval officers as they danced for the crowd during halftime.
    Since 1893, Bill has been a living goat who embodies the fighting spirit and tenacity of the Navy. To find that mascot, the Naval Academy took out a newspaper ad reading “WANTED: The meanest and fiercest goat possible …”
    Today Bill is not one goat but three, all white Angoras that weigh about 200 pounds at maturity.
    The Bills’ whereabouts are kept secret because of repeated kidnappings, typically by the rivals at West Point.
    Even the identity of Bill the Goat’s caretakers — who “are chosen because of their great love for these animals,” says U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Walter E. ‘Ted’ Carter — is kept a secret as part of a great tradition.
    Yet I managed to get a glimpse into that mysterious world in an impromptu exclusive interview with a caretaker who’s name we’ve ommitted for the safety of all concerned.


Bay Weekly Which goat is the most trouble?

Bill Caretaker    The blue-eyed goat, No. 33, is the naughtiest.


Bay Weekly What is Bill’s typical lifespan?

Bill Caretaker    Twelve years.


Bay Weekly How did current goats, Nos. 33, 34, 36 and 37, come to the U.S. Naval Academy?

Bill Caretaker    Bills 33 and 34 were donated by a farm in Pennsylvania and are now retired. Bills 36 and 37 are gifts from the Texas family of an army helicopter pilot, who wished he’d gone to Navy. They are now the active Bills.


Bay Weekly Tell us an interesting fact about the goats’ home life.

Bill Caretaker    The Bills are kind of like dogs. Because we get them so young, they like to follow you around and love attention. The Bills also enjoy snacking on peanuts and mints.


Learn more about Bill at the new exhibit in the Naval Academy Visitor Center, established in honor of all the past Bills but in particular the late Bill 35 whose blanket is framed and on display.

Vertical Mulching and Tree Roots

Q    I enjoy your articles. Recently you’ve written about trees & Bloom.
    I have two chestnut oaks that now have slime flux. Do you think your method would help these trees? I have called forestry schools, and they tell me I can’t do anything. Commercial tree companies want to sell me a fertilizing service for $1,000 with no guarantee.
    Would drilling at three feet cut through and damage the roots? I have about 20 of these oaks and all have shown some stress the last few years. I wouldn’t want to hurt their roots.
    Do they sell Bloom in the Annapolis area? Or is there some substitute?

–Dave Bastian

A Making the tree healthy is the best treatment for curing slime flux. Vertical mulching with Bloom ASAP will stimulate those chestnut oaks to generate new growth, which will result in compartmentalizing the region in the trunks that is generating the slime flux.
    I vertical mulched using compost on my own cherry bark oak tree here in Deale 25 years ago when we moved here, and within two years the slime flux stopped. I drilled six-inch diameter holes. Don’t worry about damaging roots. If you hit the roots with the auger, the tree will generate new roots from the damaged area. When a tree is dug, balled and burlapped, the tree loses 80 percent of its roots, and it recovers.
    I have vertically mulched my 200-year-old cherry bark oak five times, and it is healthier than ever.
    Bloom is sold at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville.


Girdling Ivy Kills Trees

Q    I enjoyed your vertical mulching article in Bay Weekly. I have two large silver maples and another mature tree. Vines have almost completely covered them, and I wanted to know if this is harmful and should I remove it. I imagine it would damage the bark to just rip the vines off after they’ve gotten so attached. And the deep vines up in the trees do provide habitat for birds and squirrels. But if it’s killing the tree, then I guess I need to take action.

–Rich Kavanagh, Deale

A The silver maple is a short-lived tree. Yes, I have seen over the years where English ivy has killed trees. This will occur if the vines completely circle the trunk and you can see the bark of the tree growing over the vine. It kills the tree by girdling.  If the vines are mostly growing straight up the tree, like many do, it is not a problem. From the looks of the top growth visible in the picture you sent, it appears that the new growth is sparse, which means that the vines appear to be girdling the trunk.


Replacing a Silver Maple

Q    We have sadly watched a large silver maple die over the past few years. It was probably about 50 years old and the source of a plague of box elder bugs. We are having it removed soon and need to know a good replacement. Also, will we have to wait to see if there is any disease or bugs in the soil that could infest a new tree?
    Do you have any suggestions for a quick-growing shade tree? We are thinking honey locust or dogwood. Our home is in Upper Marlboro.
    We really enjoy your column. Thank you for your advice.

–Leda Kress, Upper Marlboro

A Most fast-growing trees such as silver maple have short lives. However, the Shade Master honey locust is a fast-growing cultivar that has a relatively long lifespan.
    The box elder bug only feeds on female box elder maple trees. We have lots of box elder maples growing in this region. I doubt very much if the bug caused the death of your tree. Silver maple trees are prone to fusarium wilt, which may have been the problem. Since it has had a slow death, I strongly suspect that your tree was infected and you need not worry that it will affect the Shade Master locust.


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

When the days are too hot, try the hours before midnight

The temperature in the low 70s seemed cool after the scorching sun, just a few hours ago, had sent the mercury into the high 90s. The multitudes of motorized craft churning the waters had long ago headed for home. I had the spot to myself, a rather surreal feeling in the silence and darkness.
    I motored slowly into position and lowered my Power Pole anchor firmly into the bottom on the spot I had marked on my GPS. As my skiff swung stern to on the freshening tidal current, I relaxed, reached for my casting rod and fingered the swimming plug rigged earlier that evening. Carefully, I made my way to the bow.
    At 10pm, the waning quarter moon threw little light. But I had fished here often and knew exactly where I was located. I was anchored in four feet of water over the remnants of a jetty reduced by years of relentless storms and currents that swept by the prominent point.
    Surrounding depths reached five to six feet in most places, but I had chosen a shallow-running lure because I intended to target another inundated jetty well down current. It rose up to about three feet under the surface, creating a nice rip occasionally but barely visible in the meager light.
    I knew from experience that rockfish would stage just below that jetty to pick off baitfish swept along and disoriented by the swirling waters cresting the rocks below. The questions that night were two: Would they show up after the disruptions of the daytime boat traffic? If so, just what sections of the long jetty would they prefer?
    I had only an hour and a half to complete my quest, since possession of a striped bass on the water is illegal after midnight, and I needed at least a half-hour to get back to the ramp.
    Casting my plug out about 30 degrees crosscurrent, I let the lure swing, the tidal pull giving it all the action it needed. As my line straightened below me, I pulsed the lure one time, then cranked it back in a slow, steady retrieve.
    Working the rip methodically, I targeted first one area, then another. If the fish were there, would they show up in time? The clock was ticking. If I was to secure a dinner for the next evening, it would have to be soon.
    On the fourth or fifth cast, I can’t really remember, I felt my line stop, then surge out, pulling my rod tip down almost to the gunnel. Lifting smartly, I set the hook and felt a good fish begin its run. Lifting my rod high to keep the line clear of the sunken jetty’s rocks, I was alarmed to feel the grating vibrations of contact.
    Thankfully I was using braided line, which is much more forgiving than mono. Still, one sharp edge and I could kiss the fish and my expensive lure adios.
    The fish continued to take out line against my lightly set drag. I relaxed as its distance from the jetty increased and my line’s contact with the rocks ceased.
    It ran off well to one side as I applied extra pressure with my thumb, lifting, reeling and working the fish gradually to the side of the boat. In poor light I could glimpse a solid swirl from time to time as it neared me. I groped for the net.
    Eventually I led the fat rascal in and brought it over the side. I didn’t have to measure it to determine if it was a keeper. It was a heavy one. Pulling out my small flashlight rigged with a red lens so that my night vision wouldn’t be compromised, I removed the plug from its jaw.
    Burying the handsome fish in the ice, I double-checked my rig for any tangles or line fouling and prepared to cast again.
    A few casts later to the same spot brought a virtual twin of the first.
    As I judged that I had tempted the fates enough that evening, I headed back in with plenty of time to make curfew. At the ramp I was still totally alone. That’s a real rarity in the summer, unless you play in the dark.

Early-rising yellow-bellied sapsuckers

The rings of evenly spaced holes you see in the trunks of smooth-bark trees are the work of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. The birds drill into apple, beech, birch, cherry, linden, peach, plum, red maple and southern magnolia as well as pine and cedar trees. I have received several reports from readers wondering what is causing the holes because they have not seen any woodpeckers on their trees.
    To see yellow-bellied sapsuckers in action you will need to rise early. They do most of their feeding starting about an hour before sunrise, when the sap is at its highest concentration of sugars.
    Most woodpeckers make holes in trees in search of insects. Yellow bellied sapsuckers puncture the bark for the purpose of lapping the sweet sap that lies just inside.
    In most instances, the damage done by yellow-bellied sapsuckers is not sufficient to cause permanent damage to healthy trees. However, I have seen rather severe die-back of southern magnolias at the top of the tree where the stem was about six inches in diameter. In this instance, the holes made by the sapsuckers were about a half-inch apart in a band about four inches wide. I had never seen such a concentration of holes in such a narrow band.
    Sapsucker damage on cherry, peach and plum trees can result in increased borer infestation in the trunk.
    Both flat-head borers and peach-tree borers are always in search of easy entry into the bark of these species. If you see a gummy red resin exuding from a hole started by a sapsucker, you can assume that a borer found its way into the wood and is well established.
    It is not unusual to see some trees heavily damaged while a nearby tree of the same species does not exhibit any damage. One can only assume that the sap of one tree is more appealing than that of the other.
    Yellow-bellied sapsuckers can be repelled by tying foot-long, one-inch-wide strips of aluminum flashing to branches near the stem of the tree. Giving the strips a few twists so as to form them into a spiral will allow for more movement by the wind. To allow for maximum movement of the strips, attach them to the branch with cotton string two to three inches long. Use cotton string that will rot in a year so as not to girdle the branch.


   Harlequin Beetle Alert   

    Harlequin beetles are already feeding on the leaves of plants. As their population can multiply rapidly, start checking the foliage of your plants now; they are not fussy as to what they feed on. Look for them in the morning before temperatures rise. As the day warms, they will migrate into the more shaded areas. Early on, you can control them manually by either squishing them with your fingers or drowning them in water containing dish detergent or vinegar.


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

Keep an eye out for this nasty pest

It all started with the best intentions. Kudzu, a plant native to Japan, was imported to the southern United States in the 1800s to enrich soil depleted by tobacco. It then came to Calvert County to prevent erosion, stabilizing the Calvert Cliffs. Wherever it came, the woody vine with distinct three-lobed leaves brought problems.
    It’s for good reason that kudzu is known as the vine that ate the South, for it can grow up to a foot a day in temperate climes with mild winters, a category that Maryland falls into.
    Now, we get to worry about the kudzu bug. Megacopta cribraria, an oblong olive-greenish bug with brown freckles, has made its way from Japan to our shores. How it came is a mystery; what it’s doing is not.
    The bug is partial to the kudzu plant but its appetite extends to other relatives like wisteria (an invasive that ought to be eaten) and legumes like soybeans.
    “The soybean is most closely related to the kudzu, as can be seen in the leaves of both plants, which is why the bug potentially poses a big threat,” says Bill Lamp, University of Maryland entomology professor.
    The kudzu bug is a relative of the stinkbug, releasing a similarly unpleasant odor when disturbed. Worse, they also leave a stain and can cause skin irritation. The kudzu bug likes to seek shelter in the siding of homes over winter. In the South, they’ve been reported to have swarmed whole communities.
    If you see a kudzu bug, report it to the Maryland Department of Agriculture Plant Protection and Weed Management hotline: 410-841-5920; extension.umd. edu/learn/ask-gardening.