Lit­tle black stone­flies are not pests, but clean-wa­ter in­di­ca­tors

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Ellen Nibali

A lot of these in­sects have landed on my out­side struc­tures. What are they?

Good news. This is an adult lit­tle black stone­fly. Stone­flies are na­tive in­sects, not pests, and a great in­di­ca­tor species. They can only ex­ist in very clean, un­pol­luted wa­ter, so sight­ing them means you have great wa­ter nearby.

They lay their eggs on wa­ter and the hatched lar­vae, called na­iads (like the mytho­log­i­cal Greek wa­ter nymphs), live on the wa­ter bot­tom for up to sev­eral years, be­fore emerg­ing as adults. Adults can show up at un­usual times, even in snow.

Stream trout love stone­flies, so fish­er­men make ex­quis­ite fish­ing lures to mimic them. They’re im­por­tant links in the food chain for much wildlife.

I want to try start­ing tomato and pep­per plants in­doors this win­ter to trans­plant in spring. I have a cal­en­dar that tells when to plant veg­eta­bles out­side, but when do I start the seeds? I know the plants shouldn’t get too big, too soon.

Search “plant­ing cal­en­dar” on the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion’s Home and Gar­den In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter web­site. In the “Veg­etable Plant­ing Cal­en­dar for Cen­tral Mary­land” the yel­low bands in­di­cate ap­prox­i­mate dates to start seeds.

Tomato plants should be started five to six weeks be­fore trans­plant­ing, while pep­pers need eight to 12 weeks, de­pend­ing on the type.

Search “start­ing seeds in­doors” for in­for­ma­tion about each step of the process.

You’ll want to be sure to har­den them off be­fore plant­ing them in the ground. A cloudy day or early evening plant­ing helps pre­vent sun­scald on the ten­der trans­plant leaves.

Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion’s Home and Gar­den In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter of­fers free gar­den­ing and pest in­for­ma­tion at ex­ten­sion.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Mary­land’s Gar­den­ing Ex­perts” to send ques­tions and pho­tos.

UNIVER­SITY OF MARY­LAND EX­TEN­SION’S HOME AND GAR­DEN IN­FOR­MA­TION CEN­TER

Lit­tle black stone­flies are na­tive species that are not pests but rather in­di­ca­tors of clean, un­pol­luted wa­ter and an im­por­tant link in the food chain.

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