Ask MDC

By MDC | April 1, 2021
From Missouri Conservationist: April 2021
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Got a question for Ask MDC? Send it to AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q. How long does it take for a skink to regrow its tail after losing it as a defense?

It varies by species, age, how much of the tail was lost, as well as the body condition of the individual lizard. The time of year would also matter. For example, if the skink lost its tail going into winter, it would not have the energy to grow a new tail. However, if the event happened earlier in the spring, the animal would have the whole summer to feed and that energy could go toward tail regrowth. The estimate ranges between two months to a year, depending on the previously mentioned factors.

Q. I saw this substance dripping liquid from a thick wild grape vine at Young Conservation Area. Can you identify it?

The orange slime on this large grapevine is most often observed during cool, wet weather in the spring. While it may look dramatic, the slime itself isn’t harmful to plants.

Trees, shrubs, and vines begin moving sap from the roots to the twigs as spring approaches. If the sap encounters a wound or cut, or if the trunk has been severed, it spills out of the plant, where enterprising microorganisms seize upon it as a free meal. Soon the sugary sap is transformed by yeasts, bacteria, and different types of fungi. While orange is the most frequently reported, slime can also appear pink, yellow, or white.

A yeast called Cryptococcus macerans, commonly identified in this type of slime, produces carotene within its cells and gives the slime an orange color. Some observers call the phenomenon a “slime volcano,” a term alluding to its oozing lava appearance.

Q. I was collecting redbud flowers and saw this 1-inch-wide formation on the underside of the branch. What is it?

This hexagonal cluster of eggs was laid by an insect in the assassin bug family called a wheel bug (Arilus cristatus), a moniker derived from the semicircular coglike projection on the insect’s thorax.

These fierce predators use strawlike mouthparts to pierce the body of prey and ingest internal fluids. Since they prey on a variety of insects, including those considered pests, wheel bugs are regarded as beneficial by many gardeners and farmers. But do not handle them; their bites are infamous for being exceptionally painful.

This egg cluster is glued together by a gummy cement that is believed to protect the eggs from severe weather, parasites, and predators. These egg clusters are typically found at a height of 4 feet or below on tree trunks and limbs, shrubs, and miscellaneous objects.

You can learn more about this species at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZR3.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler