School’s out, and the best way to beat summer boredom is to get outside. With creeks to seek, baby animals to watch and fireflies to catch, there’s plenty to do in June and July. Here are eight more things you can discover.
Painting with mud is good, clean fun. Mud’s easy to find and comes in a rainbow of colors. Scoop some from puddles or dig a hole in your backyard (ask your parents, first). The deeper you dig, the more colors you’ll find. Use an egg carton to keep colors separate. You won’t need brushes—fingers work just fine—and a sidewalk makes the perfect canvas. The next storm may wash your mudsterpiece away, but don’t worry Leonardo dirt Vinci, you can paint another.
There’s a thunderstorm rumbling in the distance. Want to know how far away it is? When you see lightning flash, count the seconds until you hear thunder. If you don’t have a watch, just say “one Show-Me State, two Show-Me State, three Show-Me State …” For every five seconds you count, the storm is one mile away. Be careful, though. Lightning can cook you crispy. Stay inside or on a porch while you’re waiting for thunder.
Grab some earplugs, because the first half of June will be LOUD! The root of the ruckus is a pinkie-sized insect called a periodical cicada. Periodical cicadas spend most of their lives underground. They wriggle to the surface every 13 or 17 years—depending on the kind of cicada—for a huge reunion concert. To woo lady cicadas, males flex drum-like organs on their tummies that create a loud hum. When thousands hum together, they make enough noise to rival any rock band. Find out more about cicadas.
What’s orange and flies and loves grape jelly? It’s a Baltimore oriole. Like hummingbirds, orioles eat nectar and insects. You can attract the brilliantly colored birds to your yard by setting out a dish of grape jelly or jam. Be sure to replace the jelly every couple of days to keep germs from growing in it. If you don’t have jelly, orioles also enjoy oranges. Simply cut an orange in two and set the halves outside.
Quick! Don’t let dad read this! Is he gone? Good. Now, here’s the perfect Father’s Day present: On June 11–12 (the weekend before dad’s big day), take your pop to the nearest fishing hole for freefishing weekend. During that time he won’t need a fishing permit, trout permit or daily tag. (You’ll both need to follow other fishing rules, though.) If your dad catches the fishing itch, surprise him on Father’s Day with a permit so he can cast a line year-round.
If summer’s heat has you beat, escape to a cool, clear Ozark stream. Each one offers the excitement of an amusement park but without long lines. Float a canoe in the current and you’ll squeal with thrill as you rush over rapids. Or, fish for bass or make a splash in a spring-fed pool. Missouri offers plenty of splendid rivers. Head to the library and check out A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri to help you choose.
Back in the day, big game hunters dug deep pits to catch lions and tigers and bears—oh, my. The unsuspecting beasts would fall into the pits and couldn’t climb back out. You can catch smaller quarry—ant lions, tiger beetles and woolly bear caterpillars—by burying a coffee can so it’s flush with the soil’s surface. Put four rocks around the can and lay a small, square board on top. This will protect whatever you catch from sun and rain. Check your trap every day, and release your captives after you’ve taken a look.
Sit outside on a summer evening and you might be treated to a musical trill. Although it sounds like a bird’s song, it’s probably the call of a gray treefrog. Try to track down the awesome amphibian by following its voice. Check windows and porch lights, first. Treefrogs frequent these areas to feast on the buffet of bugs attracted by the lights. Hear a gray treefrog and learn more about them.
Looking for more ways to have fun outside? Find out about Discover Nature programs in your area.
Your guide to all the nasty, stinky, slimy and gross stuff that nature has to offer.
This Great Plains ratsnake has found a new main squeeze—a tasty deer mouse. Ratsnakes are constrictors. They coil their muscular bodies around prey and squeeze until the unlucky animals can’t breathe. It’s like when Aunt Lulu hugs you at Christmas, only the snake doesn’t let go. Lest you feel sorry for the mouse, consider that without snakes and other predators, we’d be overrun with rodents.
A bubblegum-pink katydid is as rare as a four-leaf clover. Most katydids are green and leaf-shaped, perfectly disguised for hiding on plants. Pink katydids, however, are born without the skin pigments that turn other katydids green. It’s good this condition is uncommon, because pink katydids stick out like sore thumbs! Consequently, most wind up taking a one-way trip into a bird’s beak. Search fields around your house. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find one before the birds do. Katydid
Bullfrogs are Missouri’s largest frogs. These coffee-mug-sized croakers eat anything they can cram in their mouths, including snakes, birds and mice. In summer, the calls of lovestruck males—burrr-rumm— can be heard half a mile away! Females lay about 20,000 eggs that hatch into chunky tadpoles. Many people eat bullfrogs. When fried, legs from these meaty amphibians taste like chicken.
Buzz off! This dragonfly probably wishes it could but must wait for the sun to warm its body and dry the dew from its wings. Once it’s able to fly, however, bugs beware! Dragonflies are fierce predators that swoop and swerve to catch and eat other insects in mid-air.
Nichole LeClair Terrill