What is it?
Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of the Missouri outdoors. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.
Ask The Ombudsman
Q. During warm days this fall, we have noticed that masses of tiny, grayish-black insects gather on our patio and bare patches of soil. Can you identify them from the photo and tell us if they are hazardous to us or our property?
A. Your photo is of insects called springtails, of which there are hundreds of species in North America. Only a millimeter or two in length, a tail-like structure on their abdomen allows them to spring up to several inches at a bound, a distance of about 100 times their body length. They live in moist soil, mulch, or leaf litter, feeding on organic matter, which they help break down to release nutrients into the soil. Morel hunters often find these tiny insects in the hollow stems of their collected mushrooms. They sometimes get into damp areas of homes or are brought inside with potted plants. They are not harmful to people, pets, or homes and will be gone if moisture sources are eliminated. Springtails are an indicator of healthy, moist, organically rich soil. Occasionally springtails will mass as you observed, usually only for a few days. A water hose will disperse them, if that is desired.
Q. We had an abundance of thistles in our fields this past summer. Does feeding birds thistle seed lead to additional weedy thistle plants on the landscape?
A. No. We have a number of thistle species in Missouri, including native species and several introduced weeds from Europe and Asia. The plant (Guizotia abyssinica) that provides the “thistle” seed for bird feeding (also called niger, nyger, or nyjer seed) is not actually a thistle. It is a plant native to Africa that resembles some of our native sunflower species. The application of the name “thistle” to the seed was probably for marketing purposes, to make it seem like a natural food for finches, several species of which have a preference for thistle seeds. Niger has only once been documented as growing in the wild in Missouri, in disturbed soil
Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions, or complaints concerning the Conservation Department.
Address:PO Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180
Phone:573-522-4115, ext. 3848
Winter Trout Fishing
As the cold weather sets in, many anglers will put up their tackle till spring. However, Missouri offers a variety of winter trout fishing opportunities — ranging from red, white, and blue ribbon streams and trout parks, to fishing ponds in Kansas City, St. Louis, and other communities across the state.
Whether you are a pro or new to trout fishing there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Each trout fishing area will have a unique set of regulations to help maintain quality fishing and ensure an equal opportunity for all anglers willing to brave the cold. Bait and tackle restrictions, along with “catch-and-release only” are some of the regulations that can differ depending on the area you are fishing.
If an area allows you to harvest your catch, you must purchase a trout permit in addition to a fishing permit. This applies to all anglers, regardless of age, that plan to keep trout. However, anglers who have purchased a lifetime conservation partner permit or a resident lifetime fishing permit do not need to purchase an additional trout permit, but may be required to obtain a daily permit at certain areas. Regardless of permit type, all anglers should check local regulations for the area they are going to fish to ensure compliance with all regulations.
Bundle up and bring the whole family to your local winter trout area. One catch of this beautiful fish and you’ll be hooked on winter trout fishing in Missouri. To learn more about trout fishing in Missouri, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/5603, or contact your regional conservation office
Daniel Schepis is the conservation agent in Clay County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
What is it?
Missourians are most likely to see snowy owls in the state’s northern counties from mid-November through February. They nest in the open Arctic tundra. Peak numbers in Missouri occur about every four years in response to lemming population crashes in the far north. Snowy owls in Missouri are mostly immature individuals forced south for lack of food. Younger owls have extensive black barring on their body and head. Adults, especially males, are very white with some barring. Adults are 20–25 inches long (tip of bill to tip of tail) and have a wingspan of 4½ to 5 feet. Snowy owls are active during the day and prefer open grasslands where they perch on the ground, fence posts, and hay bales. —photo by Noppadol Paothong