By MDC | November 1, 2021
From Missouri Conservationist: November 2021

Got a question for Ask MDC? Send it to or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q: What type of mushroom is this? I found it in a wooded area, bordering a creek?

Commonly known as chicken of the woods or sulfur shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus), this mushroom is considered a choice edible. Although this is a safe and delicious mushroom, it is recommended to try only a small amount the first time.

In season from May to November, they appear in overlapping clusters on the stumps, trunks, and logs of dead or dying deciduous trees. For more information, check out A Guide to Missouri’s Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms at

Q: What type of cocoon is this?

This is likely to be a woolly bear cocoon, and if it is, it will emerge as a tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella). Those stiff bristles on the cocoon are the hairs from the caterpillar’s skin. They are irritating to predators while the caterpillar is moving around, and they continue to be irritating to predators during metamorphosis.

These common caterpillars are most conspicuous around the time of the first frost. There are two broods in Missouri. Isabella tiger moths overwinter as full-grown caterpillars and have a remarkable capability to withstand freezing temperatures. They pupate within cocoons made from their hairs and emerge as moths in the spring.

For more information, please visit

Q: We have been enjoying a common loon on our pond in southwest Missouri. I read about the space required for them to take off. The area is wooded around the pond. Will the loon be able to take off on its own? And do loons nest in Missouri?

Common loons need anywhere from 30 yards to a quarter of a mile to takeoff, depending on the wind. They can become stranded without a considerable amount of open water for a long takeoff, such as a pond that is too small.

Loons don’t nest in Missouri, likely due to a lack of abundant, secluded lake habitat with quiet, undeveloped shorelines. Loons spend most of their lives in the water, and can’t walk well on land, so secluded nesting locations on the shoreline are a necessity.

Missouri’s handful of large, man-made reservoirs may seem suitable for loon nesting, but they are quite limited compared to the numerous remote lakes farther north. Missouri may also be too warm for loons. For more information, visit


This Issue's Staff

Stephanie Thurber

Angie Daly Morfeld

Larry Archer

Cliff White

Dianne Van Dien
Kristie Hilgedick
Joe Jerek

Shawn Carey
Marci Porter

Noppadol Paothong
David Stonner

Laura Scheuler