We’re back to our regularly scheduled What’s Buzzin’ content with a week of absolutely stunning submissions, including our first adult Monarch sighting (header photo, seen above)! It’s seemingly been a banner year for this iconic butterfly, with several caterpillar and chrysalid sightings throughout Missoula and western Montana. They’re not the only threatened species seen this week, either. The Western Bumblebee, whose populations are declining, was spotted not once but twice so far this year! Proof positive that despite the circumstances we find ourselves in, life, uh, finds a way.

Bee-mimic Beetle

Trichiotinus assimilis

These fuzzy flower scarabs are easily recognized for their striking whitish-yellow striped pattern, though no one would blame you for mistaking them for a bumblebee. When in flight, these beetles are loud, and combined with their other bee-like characteristics, it may be hard to tell the difference until they land and offer a closer look.

Misty Nelson, July 14th, 2023. South Hills, Missoula, MT.

Becker’s White

Pontia beckerii

This species, also referred to as a sagebrush white, is found in arid, open habitats in the western United States and southern Canada, and is often associated with plants in the mustard family. We typically see two broods per year (the south will potentially see three!), and adults take wing throughout spring, summer, and early fall (though they are most abundant in early spring).

Deb Hoagland, July 14th, 2023. Lower Miller Creek, Missoula, MT.

Goldenrod Crab Spider

Misumena vatia

Goldenrod Crab spiders are masters at blending in. These spiders can change color over several days (ranging from yellow to white) to match their environment. Like many spiders, they are sit-and-wait predators: they patiently lurk on flowers, waiting to ambush a bee, fly or other pollinator that happens by. These spiders are widespread across North America and Europe, typically in temperate regions.

Kristi DuBois, July 14th, 2023. Missoula, MT.

Small-eyed Sphinx

Paonias myops

This moth has average, moth-sized eyes, unlike their name suggests, but the eyespots on the hindwings are small compared to the eyespots of similar species. These handsome moths are found throughout the US, southern Canada, and Northern Mexico. Caterpillars are voracious eaters of wild cherry, hawthorn, and other trees, but like many species of moths, after emerging from the cocoon, the adults do not feed at all.

Marion Hatch, July 21st, 2023. Alberton, MT.

Gray Hairstreak

Strymon melinus

This relatively small butterfly (about 20-30 mm) is found across North and Central America in a wide variety of habitats. They are truly cosmopolitan, ranging from cities to farmlands, tropical forests to mountains. They physically resemble the group of butterflies known as the blues but belong to a separate subfamily, Theclinae. They are recognized by the orange and blue spots near the delicate tail-like extensions on their hind wings.

Glenn Marangelo, July 30th, 2023. Missoula, MT.

Northern Spreadwing

Lestes disjunctus

One of the more common ways to distinguish damselflies from dragonflies is by how they hold their wings at rest. Dragonflies hold their wings out to the side, while damselflies hold them down their back. However, this distinction does not apply to spreadwings, as their name implies. The northern spreadwing is found throughout North America (except for much of the southeast) near ponds and slow streams.

Brenna Shea, August 3rd, 2023. Missoula, MT.


Philanthus sp.

Beewolves are aptly named aerial predators: as solitary wasps, they prey on bees (often sweat bees) to provide for their carnivorous larvae. The female will construct a nest in the ground, while the male marks his territory with pheromones. Despite their aggressive and persistent hunting (one brood cell may be stocked with up to six bees), the adults feed on nectar, like most wasp species.

Misty Nelson, July 14th, 2023. South Hills, Missoula, MT.

Western Bumble Bee

Bombus occidentalis

This bumblebee was once one of the most common in western North America, with a geographic range spanning from southern California to Alaska. Unfortunately, in the last decade, their population has dropped by 40%, no doubt accelerated by human impacts and climate change. Seeing one in the wild is a hopeful reminder that they are still around, and with some effort, they will be for good!

Kristi DuBois, July 22nd, 2023. Missoula, MT.

Stink Bug

Chlorochroa sp.

Stink bugs in the Chlorochroa genus are difficult to differentiate without dissection, but all 20 species have one thing in common: they stink. However, the composition of their defensive “stink” varies between species. As true bugs, they have piercing and sucking mouthparts that they use to pierce and consume plant tissues. Luckily, this one was just resting in the shade of a honeysuckle vine (as opposed to eating it).

Morgan McNeill, July 27th, 2023. Lolo, MT.

Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth

Hyles euphorbiae

These large hawkmoths (sphinx moths) are a non-native species released to combat leafy spurge. As the first biological agent to fight the invasive plant, these moths have inhabited the United States since 1965. The caterpillars are striking, with colors ranging from vivid green and yellow to dark red, orange, and grey, depending on the caterpillar’s age. Adult moths’ wingspan can reach close to 10 cm, and like many day-flying moths, they are often mistaken for hummingbirds.

Dee Anderson, August 2nd, 2023. Missoula, MT.

Boreal Bluet

Enallagma boreale

This mating pair has not assumed the typical “mating wheel” that damselflies are known for, but the male (on the right) is grasping the female in his mating claspers either in anticipation of mating or to guard her while she lays eggs. The female (left) will lay eggs on emergent stems in the water; after the aquatic larvae hatch, they overwinter as nymphs. The Boreal Bluet is found near slow-moving waters and ponds throughout the western and northern United States and southern Canada.

Brenna Shea, August 3rd, 2023. Missoula, MT.

Salt Marsh Moth

Estigmene acrea

The Salt Marsh Moth caterpillar varies widely in color, from blond to brown to black, making identification difficult (like most caterpillar ID). However, the black markings on the face give them away. Their name reflects their affinity for tidal marshes along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts. Still, they are found in any open habitat throughout North America, except Alaska and the Yukon. The caterpillars feed on a wide variety of plants and are often seen rapidly wandering around on the ground in search of new food sources.

Lisa Ann Cloo, July 30th, 2023. Missoula, MT.

Header Photo: Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Kelly Dix, August 2nd, 2023. Missoula, MT.