By MDC | July 1, 2024
From Missouri Conservationist: July 2024

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

Q: I found this huge mothlike bug sitting in my begonia plant. It is at least 2 inches long! What is it?

This is a white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata).

These common moths can be 2½ to 3½ inches. As larvae, they feed on a wide variety of herbaceous plants, of which purslane is probably their favorite. As caterpillars, they pupate in shallow burrows in the soil. As adults, you’ll see them gathering nectar from early April through November at a variety of flowers — columbines, larkspurs, honeysuckle, clovers, and possibly this begonia. They can also be found gathering at lights.

Q: On a June evening, we saw 49 bats leaving a bat house. When the exodus slowed, I checked the house with a flashlight and noticed about six still there; I figured they were probably young that hadn’t worked up the courage to leave. Two days later, not a single bat remained. Did they raise their young?

Yes, June is what we refer to as the “maternity season” for bats. At that time, bats have migrated into their summer habitat and break up into maternity (female) and bachelor (male) colonies. Many species of bats have a network of summer roosts where they spend a few nights at a time and then travel to another. This behavior is still being researched, though it is believed the female bats are figuring out which roost will provide the most security for their pups. Shining lights on roosting bats can cause them to abandon a site, so we suggest avoiding that if you would like your bats to stay.

As we approach August, maternity colonies of bats have completed rearing this year’s pups and they are now fully independent. As the pups mature, the colonies begin to break up. It’s likely you will see the juvenile bats roosting in odd spots on your property as they learn to find safe spaces. As we approach fall and winter, you will likely only see an individual bat or possibly a small social group using the roost. These small groups may be juveniles returning “home” as they develop their confidence, or they may be bats having a layover during migration. For more information about how to support Missouri’s native bats, visit

Q: I found this dragonfly on my hanging basket. Can you help me identify it?

It is a female smoky shadowdragon (Neurocordulia molesta).

Adults of this species, and most others in the genus, only fly during twilight, and only a few inches above the water surface. This way they avoid daytime birds and nighttime bats. They are the only genera regularly collected at lights. This species occurs only in very large rivers, mainly the Mississippi and Missouri.

Larvae live on driftwood and seem to take two years to mature as their woody debris drifts along. The adults leave the river after emerging for a week or so to mature before returning to forage and mate. If you catch an adult on the river, it almost always is headed upstream.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer – Amanda DeGraffenreid
Designer – Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation – Marcia Hale