Recently, someone brought in a clementine (bought in a local grocery store, but grown in Chile) that had some strange-looking worms in it. They used a fabulous camera created specifically for photographing insect specimens, and were able to send the images to other entomologists to find out what was eating the fruit.
Why is this important? "Bad" bugs can be carried into our area by very unwitting carriers. It's believed that the emerald ash borer came to West Virginia in firewood brought from Michigan to a campsite in the New River Gorge. As I wrote last week, the woolly adelgid came to America on a plant ordered from overseas by a well-meaning gardener.
In the building where Laura and all of those bugs hang out, there are many more folks dedicated to the insect population of our state. They track the gypsy moths, they follow the emerald ash borer, they look for all of the bad (and the good) insects that inhabit the Mountain State's gardens, forests and wild lands.
Some of them speak to school groups, taking the pretty or unusual insects for show and tell. But I have to admit I was fascinated by the box upon box of teeny, tiny beetles the size of the heads of the pins on which they are lined. Again, as always, my family thinks I am so weird. While the kids think insects are pretty fascinating, the fact that I was so excited to visit this "bug museum" made them think I had gone over the edge.
If you have an insect that's just bugging you, you can send it to Berry Crutchfield or Laura Miller, and they will help you identify it and give you advice on how to deal with it. But don't just pop it into an envelope ("We had one come in and it was just a smear on the inside of the envelope ...").
Call the folks at the Plant Industries Division, 558-2212, and they will tell you how to preserve and ship it so that it gets to them in the best shape for identification. If you want to visit the insect collection, contact Laura and she will help you. The insects are kept at the Gus R. Douglass Agricultural Center at Guthrie.
Politically correct shrub
Kay Legg sent an e-mail asking about a beautiful bush that's seen on MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City.
"One of my autumn delights on my way to work each day is the glimpse of the callicarpa (so I have been told) in front of Rep. Shelley Capito's office in Kanawha City. It gets even more spectacular when the leaves drop off and the berries are suspended from the drooping stems. If you happen to get a view of this, could you tell me what variety this is," Kay wrote.
I asked Holly Hoffman, an incredible garden designer and plant expert from TerraSalis, to help identify the bush.
"I went by Shelley's office and the plants in question are indeed 'Callicarpa dichotoma,'" Holly writes. "What variety I don't know but 'Early Amethyst' is one of the most common ones on the market. They really are beautiful, aren't they?"
Sara Busse is a Charleston resident and master gardener. She may be contacted at sjbu...@gmail.com.