Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of outdoor Missouri. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder
Q. When do wood ducks hatch in Missouri?
A. Nesting occurs between April and the end of June, making early May a good time to watch for ducklings.
Wood ducks build their nests in trees near water. New ducklings need a lot of protein to grow and develop feathers, so they can be found gathering insects around moist soil or shallow water with sparse vegetation.
The wood duck is the only North American duck that commonly produces two broods in one breeding season. For more information, visit allaboutbirds.org.
Q. How often do you see a doe with triplets?
A. “Triplets are not common in most Missouri counties today,” said Kevyn Wiskirchen, MDC resource scientist. “Although mature female deer are capable of producing three or even four fawns, reproductive potential is closely linked to body condition, which is linked to available nutrition.”
Currently in Missouri, deer populations are generally at or slightly below the land’s biological carrying capacity, a phrase that describes when deer numbers are in balance with available habitat and animals are in good condition.
In areas where forage is extremely nutritious and plentiful, the likelihood of triplets (and the very rare occurrence of quadruplets) increases. In one Michigan deer herd fed supplemental rations, 14 percent of the mature does had triplets at least once in a several-year period, a rate higher than most free-ranging populations.
Conversely, in areas where nutrition is limited, single offspring are more common, and some does may not enter estrus at all. Florida Key deer produce 1.2 fetuses per mature female, probably due to intense competition for limited resources.
Q. Mother’s Day through late June is a good time to watch for fawns.
A. Are swarms of honeybees dangerous? Should I be concerned if I see one?
Honeybees begin to swarm in early May, and the sight of a cloud of bees certainly can be alarming.
But don’t be worried — swarming is just the natural method bees use to create new colonies. The swarming process happens when a colony becomes overpopulated and a portion of the worker bees no longer receive the queen’s pheromone signals. These workers then create a new queen bee. Because there is only space for one queen in any colony, the old queen flies off with a part of the colony to establish a new nest before the new queen emerges.
Swarming bees fly in a cluster with the worker bees gathered around the queen. Because queen bees are not strong fliers, the swarm will sometimes temporarily pause to rest on tree branches, fence posts, picnic tables, etc. Meanwhile, scout bees — the most experienced foragers — search for suitable nesting sites.
Honeybees are usually not aggressive while swarming. Why? Without a brood or food stores to defend, the swarm’s greater focus is finding a new nesting site for their queen.
Caution is still in order — swarming bees may be less likely to sting, but they will still defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Although honeybees are not native to North America, this species is known as the Missouri state insect. Colonists introduced the bees from Germany, and today wild populations occur throughout the state. Honeybees are the major pollinator of many field crops and almost all tree fruits, making it the world’s most beneficial insect.
At a very young age, I was taught not only to enjoy, but also respect, the outdoors and natural resources we are so fortunate to have in Missouri.
Whether I was on my first deer hunt with my father, fishing, or just taking in the view, I enjoyed being outside. As conservationists, it is our responsibility to share these experiences so others can learn about and respect the resources we have.
When I make contact with people, I enjoy hearing about outdoor experiences they will never forget. I also look forward to sharing many outdoor activities and experiences with my children, as generations before have done for me. I encourage you to take the opportunity to share your outdoor experiences with others. You may not realize how much of an impact you have. By sharing outdoor experiences, we all do our part to protect and manage our fish, forest, and wildlife resources.
Mark McNeely is the conservation agent for DeKalb County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
The checkered madtom is a moderately small catfish with a yellowish back and four prominent black crossbars down the length of its body. Its upper jaw protrudes beyond its lower jaw, revealing saw-like teeth. The checkered madtom can reach 6.7 inches in length, and is found in the southern Ozarks from the upper White River east to the Current River. It is less abundant than other madtoms and seems to be declining in the White River system. Little is known about the habits and life history of this fish. Like other madtoms, it is secretive and nocturnal, remaining under cover in the daytime and actively searching the bottoms for food at night. —photograph by Jim Rathert
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler