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This big bug smells good and beware of the Southern Blight fungus on tomato plants

This big bug smells good and beware of the Southern Blight fungus on tomato plants
The cherry bug is a native millipede that can be several inches long and smells like cherries or almonds when shaken. (Ellen Nibali / For The Baltimore Sun)

Found this crawly thing when I was working in my garden beds. I’ve lived here forever and never seen anything like it! It’s several inches long. What do you think?

Cherry bug, as it’s fondly known, is a native millipede which, unexpectedly, brings delight to many people. When shaken, it releases a beguiling scent of fresh cherries or almonds. Actually, the odor is benzaldehyde, no doubt to provide some kind of protection from enemies. (There have been mixed reports of bad reactions, too.) Though heavily armored with plates, millipedes also curl up to protect themselves. This is one of the flatter millipede species, an herbivore who mainly feeds on decaying plant matter. With two legs per body segment, millipedes are slow, gliding movers, making them easy to catch if you’re so inclined.

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I have 40 tomato plants, some heirloom, some hybrid, all planted through landscape fabric, all doing well, except ONE plant (the only one of that variety) It suddenly wilted three days ago. It’s between two healthy tomato plants. The stem base has a white fungus or something growing in a thin layer, directly on the stem. Should I yank that plant out and throw it away? Is there any way to save it?

You should definitely remove it, along with the soil there, bag it up and throw it away.The white portion at the bottom of the stem is a fungal mat of Southern Blight. It is soil borne and could possibly affect other plants. Search: Southern blight — vegetables on the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center website.

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.

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