Don’t look now, but there’s another “new’ bug out there to deal with. This exotic insect, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BSMB for short) was first documented in 1998 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Since that time the pest, introduced accidently, has been spotted all along the Eastern seaboard and as far west as Missouri. Like others of its kind, this insect has scent glands that produce odors when it is threatened.

Outdoors, the BSMB is recognized as a serious pest in fruits, vegetables and farm crops in the Mid-Atlantic region, and indoors the BSMB likes to make itself comfy inside where it can overwinter, emerging in the spring.

According to the Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Science’s website: “This true bug in the insect family Pentatomidae is known as an agricultural pest in its native range of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

“In its native range (China), it feeds on a wide variety of host plants. Fruits attacked include apples, peaches, figs, mulberries, citrus fruits and persimmons. This true bug has also been reported on many ornamental plants, weeds, soybeans and beans for human consumption. Feeding on tree fruits such as apple results in a characteristic distortion referred to as ‘cat facing,’ that renders the fruit unmarketable as a fresh product.”

Slightly less than an inch in length, the adult BMSB has shades of brown on both the upper and lower body surfaces, with the typical “shield” shape of other stink bugs, almost as wide as they are long.

“To distinguish them from other stink bugs, look for lighter bands on the antennae and darker bands on the membranous, overlapping part at the rear of the front pair of wings,” the Penn State website explains. “They have patches of coppery or bluish-metallic colored punctures (small rounded depressions) on the head and pronotum. The name ‘stink bug’ refers to the scent glands located on the dorsal surface of the abdomen and the underside of the thorax.”

Now, what to do about this pest. For the home garden, detection is your best defense. Hand pick or “vacuum” them off of plants. If left, the insects such juices from fruits and vegetables making them unattractive, distorted and in most cases inedible. Drop BMSBs in a jar about half full of water to which you have added a teaspoon or so of liquid detergent.


How hard are you working?

We don’t have to tell you that gardening can be work. Those aching muscles are saying plenty, and the message is — no pain no gain. It’s no wonder we are feeling the burn when it comes to garden chores. According to caloriecount.about.com we are using up those calories as we get things up and growing. Here’s a run-down of the calories we’re burning (assuming body weight of 150 pounds) as we get our gardens in shape this spring:

272 calories/hour – gardening in general

306 calories/hour – weeding

306 calories/hour – pruning trees or shrubs

340 calories/hour – digging

306 calories/ hour – mowing with a power mower


The importance of native plants

An often unexpected bonus of gardening is the wildlife we attract to our gardens. This colorful and dynamic dimension can add worlds of enjoyment, color, movement and pleasure to the little environments we cultivate. Attracting wildlife is indeed a worthwhile effort. By including native plants in your landscape, wildlife will find the food and habitat it is adapted to, and needs for survival.

The greater the diversity of plants, the greater the amount of life a garden may support. Native plants are also well suited to the local growing conditions. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about native plants from Barb Pierson, the nursery manager at White Flower Farm:

What is a native plant?

A plant that occurs naturally in your location is considered native.

 

How can I find out which plants are native to my area?

The US Department of Agriculture maintains The Plants database (plants.usda.gov), which can be searched by state (plants.usda.gov/checklist.html) and contains maps and photographs, plus other useful information about plants. Individual states and plants societies also have information online.

 

Why are native plants important?

Native plants provide food and habitat for a whole range of organism that have adapted to certain plants and seek them out over all others. The monarch butterfly is a well-known example. Female monarch butterflies lay their eggs on plants in the milkweed family and as the caterpillars feed, they take in chemicals from the plants that make them distasteful to birds and other would-be predators.

 

Are horticultural selections of native plants also considered native?

There are many selections of native plants available, including superior forms found growing in gardens, or in the wild, or those hybridized by plants breeders. Dr. Allan Armitage, of the University of Georgia, coined the term “nativar” to describe these varieties and recommends that they be considered as natives for gardening purposes. White Flower Farm uses the National Wildlife Federation more limited definition, which does not include hybrids of native species and plants propagated by tissue culture.

White Flower Farm has many native plants and shrubs available, including these popular choices for butterfly larva food plants: Asclepias, Aster, Aristolochia, Baptisia. Among the best perennials to provide nectar for adult butterflies: Asclepias, Echinacea, Eupatorium, Heliopsis, Liatris, Monarda, Rudbeckia. Shrubs that offer fruits for birds: Ilex verticillata (winterberry holly), Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry), and Viburnum. For a beautiful, low-maintenance ground cover in shady areas, try ferns.

White Flower Farm is a family-owned nursery located in northwest Connecticut. Since 1950, they have been gathering, evaluating, growing, and selling a wide range of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, bulbs, and houseplants representing the very best varieties from around the world. For more information, visit whiteflowerfarm.com, where you will also find helpful gardening information including how-to videos. Join the E-mail list for gardening advice and tips.


Starting ‘em young

Give a child the gift of learning to garden and you’ve presented them with an activity they can enjoy all their life. From small children to senior citizens, there are gardening activities for every age and level of activity and experience.

The National Gardening Association’s (Burlington, Vt.) website is dedicated to getting children started in the joys of gardening for a lifetime of learning and growing. Visit kidsgardening.org for a harvest of ideas and inspirations. The grant section includes major grants available for school gardens, and for teachers, the site also has lots of projects and lesson plans.

 

 

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award and the Florida Magazine Association’s Silver Award of Writing Excellence. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association. She gardens in Camden. Got questions, or comments? Visit her blog, and join in the conversation at: gardeningonthego.wordpress.com or on Facebook.