Ask MDC

By MDC | May 1, 2022
From Missouri Conservationist: May 2022
Body

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

Q: I found these things growing on the leaves of a smaller tree next to our pond. What are they, and what species of tree is this?

These galls are caused by elm sack gall aphids, a species native to Europe. Although the galls appear dramatic, they are not a concern for tree health.

The tree is likely a slippery elm. Slippery red elm leaves have a lot of stiff hairs on the upper surface and almost feel like Velcro when crushed between index finger and thumb.

Plant galls are abnormal growths on the external parts of plant tissues — akin to benign tumors or warts in animals. Galls are generally initiated on a plant by the egg-laying or feeding activities of various insect species, or in this case, aphids.

If you slice one of these reddish sacs open, you may see insects inside. The winged aphids that emerge from elm galls in the summer fly to various grasses where they colonize the roots. In the fall, winged aphids emerge from grass to make a return migration to elm where they overwinter in bark crevices.

Q: We live on a 20-acre farm; about 16 acres is pasture. A local farmer takes care of the fields for us. Last year at least two, possibly three, fawns were killed because he couldn’t see them in the tall grass. He managed to move one to the edge of the field just in time. Is there anything we can do to prevent such encounters?

Keeping still is a fawn’s first survival strategy. Until they are about two weeks old, fawns are unlikely to

run when they hear danger coming. Peak fawning in Missouri occurs around June 1. However, if farmers

can avoid haying, mowing, and other field work until August, they can improve not only the survival chances of fawns but of ground nesting birds, such as bobwhite quail and meadowlarks. Additionally, walking the edges of the field prior to working in it — and searching near areas where the grass has been matted down — is another strategy for identifying birthing sites and avoiding them with machinery.

To minimize human scent being deposited on fawns when handling them, it’s best to wear latex or

nitrile gloves. Move them into thick vegetation as close as possible to where they were found. The mother should have no trouble relocating a fawn that’s been moved less than 100 yards.

Q: On a morning walk, I spotted this amphibian. Can you tell me, what species is it?

This is a central newt in the eft — terrestrial, but immature — stage of life. The eft stage occurs between the aquatic larvae and the aquatic adult.

Central newts have a complex life cycle. Breeding occurs in wetlands, such as ponds and swamps, in late March through early May. Courtship behavior from swimming activities to tail fanning occurs in the wetland between the male and female until the female selects a mate. Over a period of weeks in May and June, a female can lay 200–375 eggs, singly, on aquatic plants. These hatch after three to five weeks. The larvae live in water until late July or early August, then transform into landdwelling efts. After living two to three years on land, they return to a pond or swamp, mature into adults, and spend the rest of their lives mostly in water. To learn more, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/43p.

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 - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation - Laura Scheuler