Q: Will the below-zero temperatures we experienced this past winter affect the bug population this spring and summer?
A: There are many factors that determine insect populations in a given year, and low temperatures during the previous winter might affect some groups. Most insects, however, are well-adapted to the cold temperatures and have mechanisms for dealing with cold weather. Some overwinter in the living tissues of plants, in leaf litter or underground where they are insulated from extreme temperatures. Others go into a dormant state called diapause, during which all of their cells go into a state of suspended animation, similar to hibernation but more extreme. Abundance is difficult to predict, but I wouldn’t count on seeing fewer bugs this year.
Q: I live in an area that has always had lots of squirrels, but this year they are all gone. I have heard that they will migrate to avoid food shortages but this year we had a bumper crop of hickory nuts, walnuts and acorns. Why would they leave?
A: Squirrel numbers often cycle in response to the previous year’s abundance of nuts, berries and seeds. The poor availability of food in 2007 may have reduced your squirrel population in 2008. The prolonged April freeze that occurred around Easter of 2007 reduced acorn crops and many other food sources during the fall of 2007. There is a long history of squirrel population swings that are documented as far back as early settlement times, and we still experience these. Squirrel numbers are probably down in many parts of the Ozarks at present. The population should slowly recover with a resumption of normal acorn crops.
Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Department of Conservation programs. Write him at PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.
Try this recipe with your spring harvest.
Blend cheese and flour. Take 3/4 cup of the cheese/flour mix and combine with 1/2 cup almonds and remaining ingredients except the pastry. Mix well.
Fit the pastry into a baking dish (approximately 12 x 7); trim to 1” beyond the edge and flute the edge of the crust. Fill with turkey mixture and top with the remaining cheese/flour mix and almonds.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30–35 minutes. Garnish with lemon twists and parsley.
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Outdoor Edibles—Water Cress was written by Wendell Jeffery about a floating creeping herb plant that is found growing in shallow, clear, cool spring branches. This water cress plant is edible and has more vitamin C than spinach. It is a member of the mustard family that has a “distinctive peppery mustard taste.” The leaves and stem tips can be eaten raw in sandwiches and salads or cooked in soups or as a vegetable. Growing water cress has become a large commercial enterprise for restaurants, which use them as a garnish. When picking, gather near clean streams and rinse stems and leaves to remove any small aquatic larvae or grit. Halazone tablets are recommended for cleaning.—Contributed by the Circulation staff
For many, fishing is a favorite pastime and warmer days welcome anglers of all ages to Missouri’s lakes and streams. During April there is no better time to catch crappie.
Crappie, hard-fighting game fish that have a mild flavor, are a favorite of many anglers. Crappie is a member of the sunfish family and come in two varieties, black and white. The black crappie is similar to white crappie except that it is darker with a pattern of black spots. During the spawn, black crappie become much darker and become almost entirely black in color. White crappie are slightly bigger and will be marked by a series of vertical bluish-green stripes.
Crappie spawn from April through June and prefer water temperatures between 58 and 68 degrees. The males nest at varied depths depending on water clarity and will be found along the banks from 4 to 12 feet deep. A good clue that crappie are beginning to spawn is that a fish’s fins will become frayed and worn from nest construction.
When fishing for crappie, be mindful of the regulations. The statewide daily limit on crappie in the aggregate, including white crappie and black crappie, is 30, with no length limit. However, several lakes across the state are designated as special management areas, which mean special regulations apply including a reduced daily limit and length limits.
Sean Ernst is the conservation agent for Camden county, which is in the Central region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.
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