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From Missouri Conservationist: June 2017

What Is It?

What is it 01

Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of outdoor Missouri. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.


Address: PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180
Phone: 573-522-4115, ext. 3848 Email: AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov

Q. What is this plant?

A. This beautiful perennial orchid is a lady slipper (Cypripedium calceolus). Blooming between April and June, these showy orchids are scattered nearly statewide, with the exception of the Bootheel. Seen in colonies, lady slippers have three long, twisted “flags” — an upright sepal and two lateral petals. The bright lip, or “yellow slipper,” is a third petal.

Two varieties exist. The small yellow lady’s slipper features reddish-purple to brown lateral petals, while the large yellow lady’s slipper has yellowish-green ones.

Thirty-eight orchid species are found in Missouri, and all but one of those are native. Unfortunately, of the 37 species, 13 are considered rare or endangered. If you see a wild orchid, please don’t try to transplant it because it will not survive. Enjoy them in their natural habitat.

Q. Why does the Conservation Department conduct controlled burns? Aren’t fires bad for forests?

A. Controlled burns can be extremely beneficial. Fire is not used in forest areas where it might damage potentially valuable timber, but it is an important tool to create and maintain a variety of open savanna, woodland, and grassland habitats.

For example, savannas — the grassy transition zones between prairies and woods — need periodic fire to thrive. Without it, they’ll gradually be taken over by undesirable trees and shrubs. In oak savannas and woodlands, fire keeps the tree canopy open, creating habitat for sun-loving prairie plants, shade-tolerant woodland species, and other flora unique to those areas.

Q. My children love to feed bread to the ducks and geese, but I recently learned it isn’t healthy for them. Is this true?

A. Wildlife biologists do not condone feeding waterfowl. The practice of feeding bread, pastries, cookies, and other various types of human food can cause significant health problems for ducks and geese. Processed foods provide little or no nutritional value and may actually contribute to starvation and deformities like angel wing in Canada geese, rendering them flightless. Moldy foods can impact their health just as it does in humans. Ducks and geese are far better off building their reserves by moving from location to location and eating a natural diet.

Instead of feeding human food to waterfowl, we recommend enjoying birds through backyard birdfeeders, using black-oil sunflower seeds, white millet, Niger thistle, and unspoiled suet — food sources that mimic their natural diet. You can read more at short.mdc.mo.gov/Zik.

Hummingbird “nectar” — one part white sugar to four parts water — is another way to attract and feed birds. This sugar solution provides the energy hummingbirds need to seek out natural flower nectar and insects.

Cartoon 06-2017

Agent Notes

Summertime Frogging

When my friends and I were growing up in Cape Girardeau County, it was almost a given that if we were not at school or work, we were fishing. Whether fishing local farm ponds or bow fishing at Diversion Channel, we were always outdoors doing something. One of my favorite summertime activities was frog gigging. When the dog days of summer keep most people inside during the day, frog season gives you the opportunity to get out after dark and have some fun while avoiding the summer heat.

During Missouri’s frog season, open sunset June 30 through Oct. 31, you can harvest both bullfrogs and green frogs using a wide variety of legal hunting methods. See Grab Your Frogging Gear for details. With a daily limit of eight frogs per person, make sure you have the correct permit for the method you are using.

Frogs are generally more plentiful in newer or very old ponds. For a successful frogging trip, focus your efforts on brushy, weedy edges.

For more information, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZZm. Frog gigging season rules and regulations can be found in the Wildlife Code of Missouri sections 3CSR 10-6.615 and 3CSR 10-7.445.

Ben Stratton is the conservation agent for Cape Girardeau County. To contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.

What Is It?

Common Eastern Bumblebee

Eastern Bumblebee

Bombus spp.
Common eastern bumblebees are large, black-and-yellow, fuzzy bees that measure about one-half to 1 inch in length. At least six species of bumblebees occur in Missouri. During the day, they forage among flowers, like purple coneflower shown here, for nectar and pollen. Adults eat nectar, while pollen and honey are fed to the young. Nests, usually built in rodent burrows, brush piles, trash heaps, and birdhouses, rarely have more than 100 workers at a time. In the spring, a single fertilized female, or queen, finds a suitable nest site and builds in it a large, irregular cell of wax and pollen and lays several eggs. Young will become workers and take over the pollen and nectar collecting, feeding additional young, and other nest duties. Later in the season, the queen lays eggs for queens and males, or drones. In the fall, these leave the colony to find mates. Only young queens survive the winter by hibernating in the ground. These fertilized queens begin a new colony the next spring. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong

This Issue's Staff

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