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Little black stoneflies are not pests, plus when to plant vegetable garden seeds indoors

For The Baltimore Sun

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. We have a slew of information about all stages of home vegetable growing and how to stave off or handle problems. And if your plants do get too big, we can suggest ways to handle that.

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

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