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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 Creepy Critters

Missouri Department of Conservation
A tarantula.

Discover Nature this week with Missouri’s creepy critters. It's that spooky time of year -- when plastic bats and spiders abound. But the real critters are not as scary as people think – plus, they bring benefits.

There's one type of tarantula in Missouri (it’s our largest spider), and they prefer dry rocky glades. There are more than 50 species of tarantulas in North America, but the Missouri tarantula is apparently the only one native to Missouri.

Tarantulas are nocturnal and use the venom in their fangs to subdue and digest prey like crickets. Tarantulas are shy and avoid people. Their bites are not normally serious, with a pain like a honeybee sting. The spider’s large size and shaggy look scares many people, making them think it has a ferocious nature. But it is quite shy and quick to evade humans. Many people keep tarantulas as pets and feed them crickets, cockroaches, and the like.

There are 14 types of bats in Missouri, and they're the only mammals that can fly.

The number and arrangement of bones in a bat's wing are the same as those of the human arm and hand. However, bat "finger bones" are greatly elongated and connected by a double membrane of skin that forms the wing.

Credit Missouri Department of Conservation. / KRCU

Bats are clean, shy, and smart. All Missouri bats feed exclusively on flying insects. They consume mosquitoes and other insect pests that damage crops and forests. They use a type of sonar to capture insects and avoid obstacles in flight.

Bats capture insects with their mouths or by scooping them into their wing or tail membranes. After scooping an insect up, the bat reaches down and takes it into its mouth. This method of feeding causes the darting and swooping motions that people associate with bats flying around lights near their homes at night. Because their insect prey also are flying, bats must maneuver and change directions quickly.

Bats rest by hanging upside down and use gravity for a quick takeoff.

Learn more about Missouri’s creepy (but shy) critters 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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