Into the Wild

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From Xplor: March/April 2020


Dainty wildflowers brighten the brown blanket of dead leaves. How many of these beauties can you spot this spring?

Did You Know?

Ounce for ounce, the eastern hercules beetle might be Missouri’s mightiest animal. The 2-inch-long insects can carry more than 100 times their weight. If you were that strong, you could easily pick up a pickup.


What’s better than finding a mess of morels? Eating them! These mouthwatering mushrooms pop up on forest floors in mid-April. Morels are yummy, but some mushrooms are poisonous. Always get a grownup to help you identify fungi.


Harvestmen — aka daddy longlegs — creep over leaves on their long, spindly legs. These close relatives of spiders, mites, and scorpions are harmless to humans. The idea that they possess deadly venom is a myth.

Did You Know?

If a hungry bird grabs a harvestman by the leg, the creeping creature parts ways with its limb. The detached leg twitches, giving the harvestman time to sneak away. Unfortunately, the missing leg never grows back.

Take a Closer Look

Sift through layers of leaves, and you’ll uncover a host of critters with more legs than most.

  • Sowbugs and pillbugs are more closely related to shrimp than to insects. You can tell these land-loving crustaceans apart quite easily. Pillbugs can roll into a ball when threatened; sowbugs cannot.
  • Legs churning, centipedes tunnel under leaves looking for insects and other tiny creatures to eat. Centipedes have one pair of legs on each body segment.
  • Most millipedes eat dead leaves and plants. Millipedes have two pairs of legs on each body segment.

Heads Up!

Centipedes can deliver a painful bite, and many millipedes release a stinky liquid that can burn skin. It’s best to observe these creatures without picking them up.


Several kinds of lizards hunt and hide among the leaves. Keep your eyes peeled for these quick and colorful reptiles.

Also In This Issue

But first, check out this mini field guide to fooling fish with fake flies.
Which critter will win this battle in the bulrushes?

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White