There’s tons of fun in the sun for you to discover in June and July. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Search the undersides of milkweed plants for yellow, green and white monarch caterpillars. Bring a few home, keep them well fed with fresh milkweed leaves, and in a few weeks the hungry little caterpillars will turn into beautiful orange-and-black butterflies. It’s magical to watch them flutter away. For tips on finding milkweed and keeping your caterpillars content, check out www.monarchwatch.org.
July is the heart of blackberry-picking season. The sweet, purple berries taste great by themselves, but are even yummier baked into desserts. Blackberry bushes don’t surrender their fruits to the faint-hearted, so armor up with long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and bug spray to protect yourself from thorns and chiggers.
Frog season opens at sunset on June 30. Put on clothes you don’t mind getting muddy, grab a buddy, and head to a pond. Bring a flashlight and have your friend shine it in the face of the first frog you find. The frog will freeze, giving you time to sneak up from behind and grab it. You can let the little croaker go, or—with the right permits—bring it home for a gourmet meal. Learn the rules of froggin’.
Mother squirrels bear a second litter of babies in late spring, offering a bumper crop of bushytails to hunt in June and July. But just because they’re young, doesn’t mean they’re easy. Bagging a limit requires some serious sharpshooting! Consider it summer school for fall hunting seasons, and hit the woods to practice shooting. Hunting rules and tips on cleaning squirrels.
When the moon is bright and the wind is calm, head to a pond and twitch a topwater lure across its surface. In no time, the still water will erupt in a frenzy of shark-like splashing as hungry largemouth bass lunge to the surface to inhale your lure. After all that excitement, don’t forget to set the hook and hang on for a fight.
A whole universe of life exists in places where we normally don’t look. Want proof? Roll over a fallen log or turn over a rock and watch what crawls, scurries and slithers out from underneath. After you’ve boldly gone where no kid has gone before, be sure to put everything back in its original place.
Every June on prairies throughout Missouri, nature puts on an early fireworks show of brilliantly blooming wildflowers. Pack a picnic lunch, bring along a butterfly net, and go on a romp through one of these multi-colored grasslands. For directions to the nearest prairie, visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places.
By now, fireflies should be flashing in parks, fields and backyards throughout the state. Catch a dozen or so, stuff them in a jar with holes punched in the lid, and let their glowing behinds be your nightlight. Just be sure to release your captives at dawn.
Looking for more ways to have fun outside? Find out about Discover Nature events in your area at mdc.mo.gov/events.
Your guide to all the nasty, stinky, slimy and gross stuff that nature has to offer
In weedy fields, look for foamy spit on some of the plants. Some folks call this snake spit or frog foam, but the frothy bubbles are actually made by an insect. Baby spittle bugs—also called froghoppers—suck plant sap and turn it into the spit-like bubbles. The foam makes a good cradle for the baby bugs. They hide inside, protected from heat and predators. And, by the way, it’s not really spit. The foam comes from the spittle bug’s other end.
A mother crayfish is a nursery and minivan all rolled into one. In late spring, the mama mudbug lays a few hundred tiny, black eggs and glues them to her tail with a waterproof paste. When the eggs hatch, the babies, which look like itty-bitty copies of their mom, hang on to tiny legs on their mom’s tail. After a few weeks of hitching a free ride, the young crayfish strike out on their own.
Pale purple coneflowers grow wild on prairies and glades. Because they’re so pretty, people also plant them in their backyards. When blooming peaks from May to July, butterflies flutter in to slurp the coneflower’s nectar. In the fall, birds feast on seeds made by the plant’s cone.
Eat your vegetables. Many of the plants nibbled on by this salt marsh caterpillar contain poisonous chemicals. The poisons won’t kill the spiky-haired worm, but they do make the caterpillar taste yucky enough that predators avoid eating it.
Nichole LeClair Terrill