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GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms.  See also: Genetically Engineered (GE) organisms.  A GMO is created by inserting a piece of foreign DNA (genetic information, e.g. a gene) into another organism.

There is an enormous amount of information, misinformation and passionate propaganda covering this topic.  Perhaps, you’ve seen it popping up on your social media feeds.  If you’re just getting started – wading into this deep sea of GMO news – I highly suggest watching this piece from CBS Sunday Morning.  It will be 10 minutes well spent.

More commentary on this topic coming soon.

If you’re asking yourself: “What is a stink bug?”… you really don’t want to know.  Many regions in the United States have been inundated with the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB, Halyomorpha halys), especially those of the mid-Atlantic where populations are highest.  Originally from Asia, these invasive insects are a nuisance as they enter homes (frequently during the fall months when temperatures begin to drop) and emit a pungent smell when crushed.

Agriculturally speaking, BMSB is a major problem rather than a nuisance.  On apples, BMSB feeding injures the fruit causing unsightly lesions, rendering it unmarketable (although it could still be processed for cider).  In 2011, BMSB cost Mid-Atlantic apple growers approximately $37 million in losses.  At this point, insecticides are the primary tool to manage BMSB on apple.  SMSB is also a pest of corn and soybeans, peaches, beans, citrus and ornamentals.

Now there is word of another newly introduced species of stink bug, the kudzu bug (Megacopta cribraria) headed toward the mid-Atlantic.  The first report of the kudzu bug came from Georgia in 2009 (BMSB was first spotted in PA in the 1990s) and it has been making its way north ever since.  It feeds on kudzu, an invasive plant abundant in the southern U.S. but also feeds on many other economically important species of bean (think: soybean and other garden varieties).  Weekly insecticide sprays may be required in an agricultural setting and homeowners can also spray an insecticide on vegetation surrounding their home to keep the insects at bay.

BMSB versus Kudzu Bug

The University of Georgia also reports that when crushed the kudzu bug emits an unpleasant odor (similar to the BMSB), can stain human skin and other surfaces and cause a minor allergic reaction (swelling/itchiness) on human skin.  Since insecticides should not be applied inside a home and a fly swatter is not an attractive option for the reasons listed above, experts suggest collecting the insects with a vacuum and killing them in soapy water.

As of fall 2013, the kudzu bug has been detected as far north as Maryland.  If the BMSB can over-winter in the Mid-Atlantic, there’s a good chance the related kudzu bug can too.  Next year keep your eyes peeled for both species in the garden.

Watch a WPXI Pittsburgh report on the kudzu bug here.

University of Georgia’s www.kudzubug.org

…pick me a snake berry?!  More on that below…

I’m a big proponent of eating seasonally, primarily eating what’s ripe when it’s ripe and avoiding what isn’t ripe or “in season”.  Maybe it comes from growing up on an apple farm.  I just can’t bring myself to buy apples from a store in the spring because I know they won’t be as good as the fresh fall apples I remember.  Summer berries have an especially short window, and right now wild black raspberries are in season on our farm.

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Rubus occidentalis is native to eastern North America and one of the most common Rubus species yet is not typically planted.

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Botany Lesson: Like all raspberries, the fruits are multiples of drupes.  A drupe is a seed surrounded by a fleshy outer tissue.  A raspberry is an aggregate of many druplets, hence containing many seeds.  A peach, for example, is a single drupe: It contains one seed/pit and is surrounded by the part that we eat.  In nature, animals are attracted to this fleshy tissue and help with the dispersal of the seeds as they consume or transport them.

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Admittedly, the wild black raspberries are more “seedy” and smaller than cultivated varieties, but they are still great on cereal or ice cream (or by the handful).  Not to mention free, “organic”, and you never know when you might see a snake slither out of the bramble…  Unfortunately, I did NOT get a photo as I was more concerned with keeping my dog away.  It was most likely a black rat snake, and easily the longest snake I’ve seen in the wild around here!

What’s your favorite summertime fruit?  Or fruit/veg/fungus you scout for and harvest from the wild?

PS – A wild black raspberry fact sheet

Welcome to my blog! My name is Katelyn and I am a scientist and educator. This is a place for me to share my passions: biology, plants, fungi, agriculture, food, health, nature and more! So stick around, unless it’s spring where you live, too…  In that case, get outdoors and observe all that blooming goodness while you can!  That’s where I’ll be!

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