view counter

Articles by Karen Holmes

Their night flights bring us treats, not tricks

Winging its way through the eerie gloom, the bat is a potent symbol of Halloween. Far from its menacing reputation in seasonal lore, bats’ contributions to the natural world are many and essential.
    In tropical and desert ecosystems, bats serve as pollinators for plants such as bananas, mangoes and the agave plant used to make tequila.
    Bat pollination is strictly a fly-by-night operation. Come sundown, these furry creatures take to the air in search of the trademark scent of rotting fruit emitted by bat-pollinated flowers. As bats sip the nectar on tap at these flowers, they get a face full of pollen, which they carry on to other flowers of the same species.
    Another important role played by bats is disperser of seeds.
    “As they fly through the rainforest, bats spread seeds to create new plants. Papaya and cacao are two plants for which seed dispersal by bats is particularly important,” says Devin Dotson of the U.S. Botanic Garden.
    Bats are also protectors of plants. As they devour insects in their nightly forays, they reduce pest damage and lessen the amount of pesticide needed to grow crops such as coffee and cotton.
    Maryland’s 10 native bat species are all insect eaters. One little brown bat can devour up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour.
    Protecting bat habitat is a good way to ensure that bats continue to thrive.
    “Bat houses are a great idea, and we encourage communities to get involved,” says Micaela Jemison of Bat Conservation International.
    To see live bats and learn more about them, parents and kids join Bat Bonanza at the U.S. Botanic Garden on Saturday October 29 (10am-5pm; free, no registration needed). For added fun, come in costume as a bat or a plant pollinated by a bat: www.usbg.gov.

Species depend on your yard and you

What if your backyard were the last place for wildlife to live? What if now were your last chance to help?
    It is, and it is.
    So says Doug Tallamy, the University of Delaware entomology professor, who comes to Bowie for Earth Day to explain why.
...

A night on the dance floor in Davidsonville is good exercise and a great bargain

Back in the woods, off a winding country road in Davidsonville, a bunch of happy people are cutting the rug in the former mess hall of a decommissioned Nike missile base.
    It’s good times as usual with the Davidsonville Dance Club, which hosts weekly Saturday night dances, evening lessons during the week and occasional weekend workshops. Founded in 1980, the club’s membership is about 250, equally balanced between men and women.
...

Beekeepers political activism rewarded

Buzzing through the halls of the Maryland Statehouse during the 2016 legislative session were some distinctive lobbyists: beekeepers, dressed in full regalia, advocating for a Maryland ban on home use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides.
...

Taking the chain saw to invasives along Route 50 and Interstate 97

Pretty is as pretty does, or so the old saying goes. When it comes to the vegetation lining the roadsides of Bay Country highways, the State Highway Administration couldn’t agree more.
    Take the callery pear.
...

Ham radio enthusiasts stand ready to step in when all else fails

On a sunny Saturday morning in late June, in a field overlooking the Patuxent River in Lusby, men assembling two 25- and 30-foot steel towers, section by section. Atop the shorter tower is a contraption that looks like an upside-down umbrella.
    What in the world is going on here?
...

Byway meadows help pollinators thrive

It’s a sunny summer’s day, and you’re taking a leisurely drive on a scenic Bay Country byway. Dotting the roadside are native Maryland meadows, alive with the waving of tall grasses and a jolly mashup of brightly hued wildflowers. There are the lavender-blue daisy-like aster, the bright yellow plumes of the goldenrod and the starry pink crowns of milkweed.
...

Local lasses drawn home by the dance and the culture

The joy of Scottish Highland dance bound them together as girls coming up in Calvert County. Now they are returning from hundreds and even thousands of miles away to lead the dance events at Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Gathering at Jefferson-Patterson Park April 30.
...

Beekeepers know it takes a healthy Earth to build a healthy hive

Spending your free time with thousands of stinging insects may seem odd. But love is a funny thing, and passion arises unbidden from unlikely sources.
    Across Bay Country, devotees of the humble honeybee lovingly tend their hives and work to help them thrive. At the same time, beekeepers are caught up in an impassioned fight to protect bees.
...

Hockey fans celebrate at their favorite watering holes

Fans of the Washington Capitals hockey team are having a smashing time. With a star-studded roster and a feared offense, the Caps have dominated their National Hockey League division for months and all but clinched a spot in the playoffs, beginning in mid-April.
    Fans don’t need to brave the crowds at Verizon Center to watch their favorite team skate on to another victory. Area bars make it easy to cheer for the team.
...