The Stink Bugs Want In

If you thought the Japanese beetles (aka ladybugs) were bad last year, get ready for worse this fall, when invading stinkbugs join the Japanese beetles. This is the worst year I have ever witnessed for stinkbugs.

Stinkbugs are harmless to humans and pets, but they are a nuisance and difficult to control. They derive their name from the foul odor they release when you squeeze the abdomen. It reminds me of smelly dirty socks with a slightly sweet odor. 

I have hung a fly-swatter outside so that I can swat stinkbugs at the door and casings to prevent them from entering the house. 

The persimmon harvest season has started, and it is impossible for me to pick persimmons without stinkbugs crawling over my hands and arms and into my shirt. They are already attaching themselves to doors and windows of our house in search of a warm place to spend the winter. 

I discarded at least two or three percent of my peach harvest due to stinkbug damage. Stinkbugs cause distortions in peaches known as cat-facing, making the fruit unacceptable.

To survive the winter, they are starting to seek shelter. You will find them in stacks of wood, under boxes or containers, in cracks and crevices of shingles. Before you bring in firewood, make certain to bang each piece on a hard surface. Thoroughly inspect all containers before you bring them into the house, including your potted houseplants. If you have hanging baskets that are dense with plants, turn them upside down and shake them vigorously before bringing them indoors.

If your house becomes invaded with stinkbugs, the only solution is to either sweep them up or vacuum them. Discard the bag immediately or you’ll spread that dirty-sock odor all over the house every time you use your vacuum cleaner. The odor is released from the gland as soon as the insect dies.

Transplanting Generous Native Trees

Q: Some native holly are growing in an azalea patch, and native cedar trees have popped up everywhere. The cedar trees showed up about two or three years ago as saplings; now some of them are two to three feet high.

I would like to transplant the holly and cedar to other areas. The transplanting would result in similar sun exposure but not necessarily soil conditions. Years ago I moved a small cedar from really loose soil (sand-silt combination) to a more granular sandy condition. Once I dug out the cedar and went to pick it up with the shovel, all the soil dropped off. Nevertheless I stuck it in its present location, where it has flourished. I don’t know if the cedar is that hardy a tree or I was just lucky. Hence I have two questions.

First when is it best to transplant native holly and native cedar tress? Second, how does one proceed?

–Paul Hoffman, Lusby

A: Now is the best time to transplant both cedars and hollies, providing you can keep them watered. Cedar trees are very hardy and will adapt to almost any soil conditions. That is why you see them in abandoned gravel pits, poor soils as well as wet soils.

To dig up your transplant, first you cut the horizontal roots by pressing the well-sharpened shovel straight into the ground. Cut all around the stem of the plant before you try to lift. For trees of both species that are two to three feet tall, you will need to dig a 12-inch ball. 

Next, place the tip of the shovel at a 30-degree angle outside the cut circle and press until the shovel is under the tree. It is best to moisten the soil well four to five days before digging. You want the soil moist but not wet.