A cicada killer wasp paralyzes prey with a single sting, but moving a stunned cicada back to her burrow is quite a chore. Over and over, the wasp drags the cicada up a tree and plunges off, gliding as far as possible toward home.
To beat summer’s heat, timber rattlesnakes hunt mostly at night. Finding dinner in the dark is easy for the snakes. Heat-sensing organs in their snouts help them detect mice and other warm-blooded prey.
Chiggers may be mighty small, but they can cause a mighty bad itch. The mites, which are related to spiders, stretch only as wide as the thickness of this page. The saliva they inject into your skin, however, can cause an itch that stretches for days.
The antlers on a white-tailed deer are among the fastest growing tissues found on any animal with fur. At the peak of growth, a deer may add up to 2 inches to its antlers in a day.
Speed demons: Green darner dragonflies have been clocked flying at speeds of 35 miles per hour. This makes them one of Missouri’s fastest insects and one of a mosquito’s worst nightmares.
Scarlet tanagers are beautiful bug-bashing machines. During an outbreak of gypsy moth caterpillars, one of the flame-red birds was observed to eat 2,000 caterpillars in a single hour.
A walleye’s huge eyes are handy for hunting at night. But when the sun shines, the fish are fin-ished. Because their eyes are so sensitive, walleye seek deeper, darker water during the day.
Young indigo buntings learn to sing from nearby males. This results in “song neighborhoods,” where bordering birds sing nearly identical songs, and birds a few hundred yards away sing something completely different.
Slip on your rubber boots and get close to the ground — pond marvels abound. Get down near the muck, where you’re eye to eye with a duck. At the water’s edge, soon you’ll see some of Missouri’s most interesting creatures performing amazing feats.
Angie Daly Morfeld
Nichole LeClair Terrill