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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Missouri's Nocturnal Insects

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flickr user terry priest (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
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A lightning bug.

Discover Nature this week with Missouri’s nocturnal insects. Why is it that when insects hit your windshield, they seem to hit right where you are looking? Who are these insects, and why are they out flying around? The answer to the first question is pure coincidence. The answers to the other questions are a bit more involved.

Most insects hit your windshield at night when many are active under the cover of darkness. They fly around in search of food or mates, or both. Moths, lightning bugs, and mosquitoes are among the insects that make your windshield their final landing place.

Female moths release a smell, which attracts males. The males can’t resist this scent that hangs in the air or is carried by the wind. As they follow the perfumed path to the females, they may meet your windshield in the process. Moths also navigate by the stars, and artificial lights can attract them. They may also be attracted to headlights, which can result in messy windshields.

The lightning bug is nocturnal and crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). When the winged adults fly, the bioluminescent tips of their abdomens wink on and off.

As for mosquitoes, they use the night to search for food, preferably a warm body and not a warm car. But they frequently encounter windshields, nonetheless.

When an insect splats your windshield, it was just following its instincts. The collisions are indications of the busy insect night life that usually escapes our notice.

Learn more about Missouri’s nocturnal insects at MissouriConservation.org.

Josh Hartwig is the host of Discover Nature and a media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
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