Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scouting and Fishing the Post-Industrial Landscape

You probably haven't heard anything about the economy crumbling, or vast landscapes of unused real estate, or anything like that.  So, you'll probably be surprised to find out that there is a lot of abandoned property in the United States right now.  Oh yeah, I'm going there.

80s Teen Vampires are Gnar-Rad!  Let's hang out at the
abandoned truck transfer facility, bros!
I could describe for you what kinds of activities we used to do in abandoned industrial parks when we were 16 and 18, and 20 years old, but since my wife, parents, and coworkers all occasionally read this blog, let's skip that part.  Here in the mid-atlantic, most residential, commercial, and industrial properties built during the last real estate boom (roughly 1993-2007) were required to minimize their impacts on water bodies, and also create stormwater ponds to treat runoff.   Most of those areas are marginal (dry in summer) wetlands and dry (sand bottom) stormwater ponds - which both mean no fish.   However,  you never know until you go.  And you should go. Where to start?
Not places like this. 

Let me clarify.  I am all about fishing or hunting in areas where it's not specifically allowed or not allowed, but that are specifically open to the public. I've even blogged some tips for doing it - here, here, and here.  But once I see a "no trespassing" or "no hunters" or "no fishing" sign, especially on private property, it's all over.  Maybe you're bold enough to challenge the enforcement of somebody's clearly expressed property rights. But I'm not, and I don't recommend it.  What to look for, then, when it comes to private property? How about this:

And this.

Places where the pond, creek, or riverbank like this.........

are fronted by an existing office or factory building that are in this approximate condition:

Nobody at work, "for lease" sign, no company logo, empty offices, 
and landscaping that has not been maintained for about a year.  SCORE.

So, I was back in my old stomping grounds in the Virginia Beach area recently and caught up with my brother the Gnutty Professor.  He was complaining about the lack of freshwater fishing access near his house (other than for tiny crappie in the Dismal Swamp Canal).  So just for fun, we put Hank in the truck and drove across the highway from his house, to a mostly abandoned industrial park.

Most of the buildings are shuttered, with "for lease" signs about every 100 feet.  Since the area is just above sea level, there are ponds everywhere, and many of the ponds near the front of the industrial park are surrounded by "no parking" signs (I take that as a challenge).  However, as we worked our way back into the former swamp, we found spur roads with no "no parking" signs, no anything.   And no ponds, either.  On one side of the road was this huge berm with "pipeline" signs up on the crest.

Doesn't look real fishy. After driving around for awhile and not seeing any of this alleged "deep water" that we saw on the interwebs mapping, we finally got bored, parked the truck, and climbed up and over the berm.  Any guess what was on the other side?

Yeah....exactly.  Not too shabby.  Gnutty threw some lures around but the sun was up pretty high already, with air temps around 97 or so, and 80% humidity.  Not real fishy conditions, despite the primo spot!

On the opposite side of the road was a rough looking, deep, dark shadowy pine forest.  But if you actually get out of your vehicle and walk up to it, you can see the 10 acre+ pond inside the trees.  It has a sandy bottom, and we found a guerilla kayak we know that others have found this place too.   Gnutty Gnu couldn't resist the urge to throw some plastic around the water, and at bare minimum, I did see live minnows, so I know that the pond hasn't been poisoned or anything crazy.  Both ponds have the appearance of being abandoned sand mines - the sand being used to fill in the adjacent swampland so that roads and factory buildings could be constructed.   Ahh, the good old days............

We didn't have any time to cover the shoreline, and I had little Hank in tow, so we weren't at all surprised to not catch any fish. But hopefully Nutty was surprised to find such a collection of good looking spots within a five minute drive of his house.  How about you? What local spot have you neglected, because you assume it's off limits or somehow unfishable??

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hatin' on Hurricane Hype - Is the Media Evil....Or Just Useless?

"Heads up, it's raining! Critical update!
What? No I don't want to go back to the county emergency
director in the studio. I've got a cool shot here!!!"
We've been without power for two days.  Other than yesterday's 3 hour search for new stocks of ice (thank you Charm City Ice Works!) , it's been quite pleasant.  That's because we are lucky enough to be on city water and natural gas (both still working), and we were smart enough to prepare for the storm, starting about 4 days prior to Hurricane Irene's visit.  

Yup, even with an estimated $10-20 billion of damage up and down the coast, it could have been worse.  And sadly, a lot of people and companies were counting on it.  Not least amongst them, the news and weather channels.  Almost as bad and just as embarassing, a virtual "Player Haters' Ball" has emerged against "The Media" in the wake of a storm that just didn't kill enough people to live up to the the hype.

**I** am the biggest hater!...
of TWC's mind-numbing coverage of the storm!

Does this coverage drive public hysteria? Possibly.  I think it's very difficult to say that one causes the other, because hysteria and media both feed each other in a wonderful, sick, little system (yay, ad revenue!).  And of course, it's foolish to blindly state that "the coverage was ridiculous BECAUSE the storm ended up not being that bad."  What if the damage had been worse? If thousands, not a dozen, had died?  Perhaps the hype-haters would be satisfied.  But I have to ask - in that case, what service would this crazy news coverage have provided, in a more deadly weather event?

None. Zero.

And that's my problem.  The 24-hour news cycle has allowed all of us to become totally complacent on receiving information, advice, and even instructions when anything is happening in our lives.  From advice on your fantasy football draft, to weather forecasts that we all know we cannot depend upon, but yet we watch every day on TV or online. 

I carry my Marmot shell with me in the truck almost all the time.  Why? I can't trust the media to tell me whether it's really going to rain.  They are wrong more than half of the time.  So why would any of us think that TV meteorologists would be correct in predicting a major weather event like a hurricane?  That's like finding out Little Suzy can't keep her money straight at the lemonade stand, and so you put her in charge of mutual funds.  And yet - we let them.  They don't make us.  We let them. And that's assuming that they are attempting to broadcast useful information - that's a bad assumption, in my opinion.

I could have stayed on the sidewalk and told you
about the deep water in the street, but then we
totally wouldn't get this useful shot!!!

Out of all of that brain-freezing news coverage of the storm, we received almost no good information.  When will the storm get bad? What types of damage, and to what extent, will different areas receive? When will the power come back on?  Where are emergency stations for food, water, ice, and medicine set up? What's the best way to prepare a refrigerator or freezer for an inevitable power loss?  How many batteries does a family truly need for a 3-day power outage?  What are the odds of losing utilities like water and natural gas?  When is the best time to evacuate?

Those are all very pertinent questions that, if answered, can help keep people alive - or at least, not rioting. Yet, the coverage was composed of almost total fluff and hours, then days, of "money shots."  Single trees down on houses.  A boat on the shoreline.  A destroyed fishing pier (that gets destroyed once every five years).  Whether this imagery is designed to create fear among viewers, I don't know.  But it's a waste of everyone's time and money. Telling your viewers, "You should be prepared to lose power in the next three hours," while "hype," is infinitely more useful information than a video of a flying car.

This morning, I mentioned to a Hype Hater that our public water system could have failed (it's 150 years old, and provides drinking water for 1.5 million or so people) and got the response, "Well, it's never totally failed."   Sorry, peeps. "Well, just hope for the best, and if it fails, I guess somebody will make it okay," is not an adequate counterpoint to the media hype.

The reality is this: the next time I see Jim Cantore posing like this, I wish he would be screaming into the microphone: "The Red Cross is set up OVER HERE at THIS INTERSECTION," and not "Look, a Kia wrapped around a tree. Look at this wind! Cool!"


If you see this post, then we are without power at 6:00am EST on monday, thanks to Hurricane Irene.  Hope everybody's hanging in there!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Blues

I have not suffered through a war, but it seems to me that being well-informed about an imminent natural disaster is a bit like being told to post guard duty on a border that you know must fall.   First, there are the well-intentioned plans that inevitably conclude before the threat is over.  Followed - of course - by a frustrated, "What do we do after that?"

Then there is the solitude of family or co-habitants. Communication with those outside a very small radius from you just.......ends.  One loses power.  Another one contemplates the rising floodwater.  Another one prepares to deal with  a house, car, or boat that has been walloped by a falling tree.  Unlike an actual conflict, hurricanes in North America rarely mean that those out-of-touch are in mortal danger.  But in our hyper-social network culture, to be unreachable is nearly unheard of in 2011.  So, we each wait.

At 175 feet above sea level, over 30 feet above our creek, and within walkable distance of a half dozen restaurants, we are not at grave risk of anything that homeowners insurance cannot repair.  My brothers have not fared as well but I have every expectation that they made it through saturday night in one piece. The worst flooding they will both experience should subside by sunday night, and hopefully power will be restored soon after. Good luck, boys!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gear Review: Shimano Sienna 1000 Spinning Reel

Some people say that blogger gear reviews are useless.  That bloggers love to get free and discounted gear so much that we wouldn't dare to write a negative review.  Wouldn't want to stop the gravy train, right?  And I love my Shimano Stradic that I received for free earlier this year via the Outdoor Blogger Network. So I'll give Shimano a free pass again.  That's probably what you think.

Well, if you believe all that, you will be able to put it to rest in about three minutes.  I recently picked up the Shimano Sienna FD (forward drag) for one of my ultralight rods.  I'd been using my Okuma Hardstone on this rod with no problems for three years, but just wanted to switch it up a bit.  And so when I visited my local big box sports store, they happened to have this pint size reel for 50% off of the $29.99 MSRP.  Sold.  Here's the thing. It was still a waste of money.

First of all, the body is 90% plastic and/or graphite, which I appreciate for the light weight, but it just does not have a good feel to it. I mean, how much weight can  you even lose off of a UL reel?  1.5 ounces? I have had it mounted on a super lightweight 4'6" graphite rod, and I felt like I was casting blindly.  I did not expect this reel to provide the extension or accuracy that the $150+ Stradic does, but when using this reel, my casts were consistently 20 degrees off to one side or the other. I received a "B" in college physics and I can't explain it.

Another issue I immediately had with the reel is that the bearings were either not well packed or well-oiled out of the box. This is basic stuff, guys.  Burning 1/16 ounce lures back to the boat should feel effortless and nearly mindless.  While retrieving several 1/8oz lures, I mistakenly thought that I had either foul hooked a small fish, or was dragging back some vegetation.  Nope.  Clean hooks.  Need more lube.

After approximately 40 minutes of frustrated casting (and no fish to show for it), the worst came.  The reel experienced some kind of backlash, which pulled an extra loop off of the spool and created Insta-Birdsnest.  I calmly pulled it all apart and went back to fishing.  Three minutes later, the same.  I worked out the kinks.  Ten minutes later, a nice largemouth took my lure on impact and here's what happened to the reel:

I stomped back to the truck and got my fly rod.  Three days later, this reel is still rolling around in the truck bed, with all of this line attached to it.  Hopefully someone will straight up steal the damn thing, so I can justify buying a more useful backup reel for my ultralight kit, like the Shimano Sahara (about $70) that brother T recently bought for his trout rod.  I have bought dozens of fishing reels in my life.  At just $14, the Shimano Sienna is definitely the cheapest, and somehow still a waste of money.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Come on Irene - Real Preparations for Real Hurricanes

Here we go.

Earthquakes not withstanding, it's hurricane season.  And here comes one.  There are a lot of websites and news outlets prescribing a whole suite of stupid activities to prepare for the Zombiepacolypse this Cat II storm.  Let's keep it real.  You want to live through the storm.  Best way to do that is to understand how people DIE in storms, and then to understand what hurricanes actually do. 

First, let's look at how hurricanes actually affect people.

5. Getting blown away with the wind, out into the ocean

5. Roads impacted by flooding

4. Water supplies impacted by flooding

3. Dangerous flying debris

2. Structures impacted by flooding

1. Loss of electricity and/or other utilities.

Now, let's look at how people actually die in hurricanes (taken loosely from a CDC report on FL and AL deaths in Hurricane Katrina):
5. Suicide
4. Murder
3. Drowning (in street, building, car, or boat)
2. Non-drowning Trauma (building collapse, falling tree, car accidents, boat accidents, etc)
1. Various causes during hurricane cleanup activities

OK, people.  We can work with this.  Starting with #5.  Don't freaking kill yourself.  If you are on medication, please call your doctor and go pick up extra, BEFORE the storm hits. If you doubt your ability to withstand multiple extreme stressors, like your car being carried away by floodwaters as your house crumbles down, then please make arrangements to go stay with a friend or relative at least 12 hours before any hint of the storm has arrived.

He had my attention at "ugly woman" and "claw hammer."
And #4.  The murdering. Two great ways to avoid being murdered during a natural disaster are to NOT DO ANY STUPID SHIT TO OTHER PEOPLES' PROPERTY, and to be able to fully secure your own property, which includes, sadly, the ownership of large caliber firearms, gun oil, and ammunition.

I am quite serious about being able to secure your home.  Can someone easily climb in your windows if they are broken? If you live on the Atlantic coastal plain, you may want to look into that.  It's also a great time to move anything in a shed or clubhouse to a safer, drier, overall more safe location.  Why don't you run out today and buy some good chain, pad locks, some half sheets of plywood, and a battery powered drill with a few extra batteries?  If you are a landowner, you should already have those things on-hand.  Sorry to say.

#3. Drowning.  Y'all aren't gonna like this, but here it goes.  If a hurricane is "coming" but the rain has already started, DON'T DRIVE ANYWHERE.  PLAN TO BE AT HOME.  If your home is in any kind of flood zone, this would be a great opportunity to get away to somewhere dry and not floodplain-ey for a few days.  You need to leave.  In Maryland, I think we've had six "one hundred year storms" in the last 10 years.  Get the idea?  I don't care how good you can swim.  Your ass will drown quick as anything if you are swimming amongst any kind of heavy debris.

#2.  Don't get crushed.  If the wind is still blowing, and that tree "looks like" it will fall on your house, guess what, that's gonna happen regardless.  Don't go cutting trees down in a hurricane, because your dumb ass will get killed by a totally different tree falling down at the same time.

If your house is not stable, go somewhere else before the storm gets there.  If your roof has issues and you've "been meaning" to replace it, go somewhere else.  If your house wouldn't be a safe place to live for up to a week without power, you need to go somewhere else. Before the storm.

1. Clean-up deaths.  Man, this is tough, because here at River Mud we are very community minded.   But please be careful.  If insurance is going to cover it, let them.  Unless someone is literally dying and needs extreme, immediate assistance, just take it slow.  Or call a contractor.

Somebody, somewhere, probably thinks you are a decent human being.  Don't mess it up by doing some dumb crap or not being prepared with the basics.  Remember that the two most likely things you will encounter will be 1) roads blocked by trees/flooding and 2) power outage.   That means a protracted time at home.  NOAA/NHC's check list is a good one - check it out. 

Good luck out there! Don't do anything stupid!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We're Having an Earthquake. And a Beer.

We were well into hour three of a five hour meeting in downtown Annapolis.  I had been pounding coffee all morning and was starting to get shaky.  Too many things to do.  Too hard to sit still.  A five.hour.meeting.  The woman beside me said, "Did the floor just shake?" and I answered, "Sorry, I was probably bouncing my leg."  Out of curiosity, I bounced my leg on the floor........nothing happened.  Weird.  About three seconds later, the entire building moved, and didn't stop moving.  Quietly but sharply, the same woman announced, "We're having an earthquake."  We all instantly stood up and looked at each other.  Our director calmly said, "Alright, we should leave now."  The building's fire alarm went off.  We went down, down, down the stairs and outside. 

From Virginia Tech's = 4.0 - 4.9 individual quakes
The state capital closed. County offices closed.  Gas lines ruptured. Brick walls cracked.  Police and fire vehicles crawled through suddenly gridlocked traffic.  But really............nothing much happened.  Here's what the carnage looked like - warning - you may not be prepared for this truly gruesome imagery:
In short, happy, well dressed people enjoying a beautiful afternoon in coastal Maryland. Yes, they are sitting outside for fear of these buildings imploding, but as you can see, they don't appear to be terribly stressed. The Ram's Head was still open and serving beer on their patio, so that is where we went, pending our building manager's decision to officially close the building until he can get a structural engineer to inspect the damage.

Getting home was kind of a disaster, since all bridges and tunnels had to immediately be inspected for damage. But again, this was a pretty minor deal, as natural disasters go.  A 5.8 richter scale quake, roughly 1/10,000 the intensity of Japan's recent quake (or so they are saying). Not harmless, but minor, right? Well, once I turned on the television at home, it seemed like they were reporting on an entirely different event.  I mean, really.

In the end, all I can do is offer this one piece of hope for all of you fellow hurricane survivors out there:

OK, or maybe this:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shellcrackers on the Fly in Southern Maryland

Shellcracker on a brown mini-hopper
I really do love southern Maryland.  It reminds me of my home in Southeastern Virginia more than anywhere else I've been, including the Eastern Shore. And I guess it's not a shock.  Point Lookout in southern Maryland is almost as far south as Richmond, Virginia.

As the crow flies, it's less than 100 miles from my high school, and yet a 170 mile drive that takes a solid three hours. Anyone who grew up on the coast or in the mountains knows this feeling.  You may be able to see where you'd wish to be.  But you can't get there. 'Member that 1984 REM song "Can't Get There From Here?"  Yup. That.

I found myself this far south for a number of reasons, but then also found myself with some nearly useless downtime in the middle of the day. I had a cold and it had just rained EIGHT INCHES, and the air temps were still in the upper 80s with full sun....... so I was not dying to go fishing or kayaking or anything, really.   So I convinced myself that I would go scout out some new spots and wait for my daily duties to resume.

If you know me, you know that I can't "scout" a spot without at least three fishing rods.  It's an affliction, I tell you.  SERENITY NOW.   After some fubar activity with a new UL spinning reel, I grabbed my 5wt Cabela's TQR fly rod and headed down the St. Mary's River on foot.  The banks were long and shallow, and the bottom was sand and gravel, which was a nice change.  That led to another nice change:
How sad -  I can't even remember the last time I fished in bare feet

There were some nice bass hunting the shoreline but they were seriously spooky.  I mostly saw them darting out of structure and back to deep water, from a distance.  Sunfish were feeding on the surface quite a bit, and so without knowing anything about what prey items were actually living in the river, I just tied on a #14 ladybug and let 'er rip.

The TQR rod - at 6'0" - is designed for these kinds of scenarios - overhanging limbs and stalking around downed trees in the water.  Traditional casting with such a short fly rod is a tricky game, and I twisted up my fly line a few times standing out over open shoals.  However, the rod excels on roll casts, which is 90% of what I was doing.  Unfortunately, there was almost no moving current in the river, so I spent a lot of time just stripping line to create some movement on the surface.  After a few minutes, I started catching redear sunfish (shellcrackers).  Some were tiny, some were mature 6-7 inchers....not giants, though.

I tried a few other flies as I worked different sections of the river - bumblebees, black ants, hi-viz ants, and poppers, and struggled mightily.  Between the dead current and the mid-day summer conditions, it was unremarkable.  But again, it was about scouting.  I finally started hooking up again on a #10 brown mini-hopper. A few solid looks from big bass, but no takers.  I'll blame the rain, and all the bait that had been washed into the river.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

That's not to say that other folks didn't have the same idea.  This guy had SIX surf rods with bells attached, and dual bottom rigs with hunks of bait.  I moved around inland of him, making the assumption that he had caught and kept every fish over 5 inches in the area.

Then I had to deal with this jerk. This European hornet walked right over to my tackle bag and crawled right in.  Then he crawled all over my tackle inserts.   Super aggressive!  When I was a kid, we had them in a rotten tree on the northwest side of our house.

Finally, he stomped off elsewhere.  Homey was definitely looking for a fight, and I was in no mood to give it to him.  After awhile, I noticed that the sun was on the move.  Time to load up and get to my next appointment.   Still, a great way to spend a long lunch!

Nice spot for a lunchbreak, right?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Garden Is Finally Poppin'

Carpenter bee on lemon balm
I'll tell y'all a little secret about my pride and ego.  Every year, the Baltimore City Farm program has a contest for "Baltimore's Best Gardens" among the 700 or so plots throughout the city.  I refuse to put the money into my garden plot that some others do, and I simply don't have the spare time to spend hours per day clipping away at dead leaves in my garden.

So, in 2010 my very pretty and fairly productive garden won the award for "most beautiful" at our City Farm, and 3rd "most beautiful" in the entire city, which I thought was nice. Note: I would have preferred to win the "best design" award.

I believe that awards for 2011 are being handed out this week, and I'm a bit skeptical about my odds for a repeat victory, based on what my garden looked like at the time of the award inspections.  A month into a severe heatwave simply made my garden look the "least depressing" of many, but certainly not "most beautiful."  "Best design?" Right.  Maybe "best design to avoid catastrophic drought failure."

Of course, now, a month later, the garden looks absolutely beautiful and I'm thrilled with it. To be fair, a few other gardens look much better too, but largely, the gardeners have abandoned their plots.  So look at mine!

Hank's even getting into the action.  He is almost two, and instead of clinging and whining constantly while I attempt to work in the garden, he's mastered such wonderful games as "Run really fast with a 2x4 full of rusty nails," "Oh, we're not picking all of the green tomatoes and putting them in a pile. Got it!", and that olde pastime, "Let's throw squash at bees."

One summer morning's harvest

A silver-spotted skipper (our most frequent butterfly at the garden) on my lemon balm
(grown from last year's seed)

A cuckoo bee or some other new variety of bumblebee on "Purple Haze" hyssop (grown from seed). 

When you look at complex native plants like Lemon Balm, it's hard to argue that at some point,
earth's systems did not have a designer

Not sure why we have to grimace while watering the corn.  It's not even my corn. 

The garden's least-welcome guest - Brown Marmorated Stinkbug on Purple Majesty Millet
- grown from last year's seed

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy 10th Anniversary to the Annapolis Surf Club!

10 years ago, I met some guys online.  All of us had grown up on one beach or another. 30-40 years later, all of us were living on the I-95 corridor in Maryland, 2 hours from the beach. A whole lot of complaining and whining and reminiscing quickly turned into, "We should go surfing." And we did.

Two of us surfed at first - a small ground swell from a tropical storm that would never come to be.  I remembered that feeling of acknowledgement - knowing that someone else saw me have a great ride on a tough wave. Over the next several weeks, we surfed a bunch of spots in a bunch of different conditions  - Indian River Inlet, the Ocean City Pier, and the Ocean City Inlet.

Then, on a foggy morning that brought along some tropical waves, we met up with more of the "email crew."  All of a sudden, there were five of us.  All living in DC, Baltimore, and Annapolis.  All dreaming of a life on the beach, and obsessed with getting more time in the water, at a time when gasoline was a dreadful $1.65/gallon (vs. the 97 cents/gallon it had been just 4 years prior).

Banner made by a coworker at the engineering firm
where I worked at the time!
That winter, we named ourselves the "Annapolis Surf Club," because we'd most often carpool from Annapolis. It was a solid brotherhood of pretty extreme backgrounds, occupations, and political beliefs, and it worked pretty well.  There was the insurance accountant, the IT guy, the CIA spook...a whole gang of weirdos.  The highway conversations got hilarious heated quickly, since the politics in any carpool could easily range from Rush Limbaugh Ditto-Head to Democratic Party Major Donor.  And worked.

We travelled, too. There were trips to Florida, trips to Puerto Rico, and trips to Costa Rica. Trips to Baja and trips to New Jersey.  Our ranks grew, and with that, came requests. Requests for beach tents.  Requests for t-shirts.  Requests for snacks.  Requests to enter surf contests as a team.  And so we started raising money.
Northwestern Costa Rica, looking north toward the Nicaragua border.....a beautiful place

Of course, this is where the problems always start, and on cue, they started.  We obtained a 501(c)3 designation in 2004, and started charging a membership fee to offset the costs to the informal club "leadership."   With 40, then 50, then 60 members......a "tiki party" gets pretty expensive. I was elected as the Board Member At-Large on the inaugural board of directors in 2004.  The first time I'd been elected to anything - it was pretty cool.  It also benefited my surfing - I probably surfed 30 days in 2003 and 40 days in 2004. 

Me on the far right, Cape Henlopen, DE - October 2003.
In October, 2004, while on an ASC trip to Cape Hatteras, I negotiated terms for a new job.  Away from consulting for state agency wetland projects (a job that had put me on job sites within view of the surf on many, many occasions over the prior 6 years), and into consulting for corporate developers.  I wish I had known that it would be the end of my serious surfing phase.  At age 30.

My last really strong interaction with the club was as Vice President in 2007.  I had moved into non-profit work the year before, and was somehow surprised that I had even less time to surf!  That trend has sadly continued.  However, the amazing members that make up the ASC continued to lead it forward. 

The Annapolis Surf Club now boasts nearly 60 members and regularly participates in charity surf contests in four states, organizes surfing trips to at least two or three remote destinations (i.e. Costa Rica) annually, and still somehow manage to keep the organization together.  10 years. 0 employees. Not shabby.

Hau`oli la Ho'omana'o, boys and girls of the ASC!
Fun little waves on an ASC trip to the Jersey Shore........2003

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A New Garden Visitor - The Two-Spotted Digger Wasp

I wish I had a smartphone.  Then I would have been able to get a quick ID on the dozens of these guys tearing up my mint flowers, which would have led me to read quotes like, "should not be handled at any time," and "among the most painful wasp stings," and "complex venom with a long half-life."   Luckily, I didn't get stung.

Meet Scolia dubia, the two-spotted digger wasp, a close cousin of the gnar-rad Cicada Killer.  The digger wasp is an aggressive pollinator of mint species (as you can see from these pictures) and prefers to lay its eggs on the larvae (grubs) of small beetles like junebugs and Japanese beetles.  Which I am totally down with, since beetles are not good friends of my garden. Plus, this wasp is gigantic, so I'm going to not bother it, ever. Let's take a look at how this all plays out:

photo from
Ouchy!  Like the cicada killer, the digger wasp repeatedly paralyzes its "babies' host" so it can't escape.  Unlike the cicada killer, which captures and flies the cicada back to its own burrow, the digger wasp just expands on the grub's own burrow. 

The eggs mature and then the wasp larvae eat the still living grub.  That'll teach you to be a beetle.  Note to God: please don't send me back to earth as a beetle.

As I've written before about other native solitary bees and wasps (who pollinate our food!!), there are a few things you can do around your garden to help these fellas out.

1. Plant pollinator-friendly flowers and herbs in your garden.  Don't cut all of the blooms.

2. Don't use ridiculous amounts of pesticides on beetles. If, hypothetically, all the beetles were gone for two years, this species might become extinct. Which might be fine except that the beetles will return.

3. Don't try to eliminate the wasps by spraying your lawn or their burrows. That's just ignorant. In the case of the larger and ever-so-slightly aggressive cicada killer, I think a protective sign or fence or a warning to the kids might be warranted, but let the wasps work!

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