I hope you’ve got your bug lenses ready because, after a slow start this spring, we’re looking at perfect buggin’ weather for the foreseeable future. We’re seeing more and more bumblebee activity (as well as the more infamous hymenopterans, yellowjackets), and though butterfly activity has slowed with the cold weather, it’s sure to be a flurry of activity soon.

Submit your bug pictures to bugid@missoulabutterflyhouse.org (and remember to include your name, the date, and the location where you took the photo)!

Header Photo: Anthaxia beetle (Anthaxia sp.) Marti Brandt, May 5th, 2024. Whitefish, MT.

Nevada Bumble Bee

Bombus nevadensis

It’s hard to miss a Nevada Bumble Bee—they are massive. Workers range from .7 to .8 inches in length, while queens can be as large as an inch. They have a long proboscis (tongue) and short, dense fur. They are found throughout western North America in open grassy prairie, sagebrush steppe, and montane meadows, usually at lower elevations but reaching above treeline. The queens hibernate underground, sometimes with several queens sharing the same hibernaculum (underground space where they overwinter).

Keri Link, May 4th 2024. Waterworks Hill, Missoula, MT.

European Mantis Ootheca

Mantis religiosa

European Mantises, as their name suggests, are not native. Each year gardeners purchase their egg cases (called oothecae) with the idea that the emerging mantis nymphs will eat other insects that are bad for their flowers or vegetables. It’s debatable whether they have a beneficial impact since the growing mantises inevitably eat insects that pollinate our plants too. In addition to the annual introduction by some gardeners, in late summer / early fall the females will lay two to three oothecae. If we have a mild winter, we may be getting mantises through natural reproduction.

Julene Ozuna, May 5th, 2024. Missoula, MT.

Elm Leafminer

Fenusa ulmi

Brenna noticed a sickly-looking blight on the leaves of the elm tree in her yard last summer, and upon closer inspection, found tiny leafminer larvae occupying the space between the outer leaf layers. Elm leafminers are a species of sawfly, a bee/wasp relative so named for the saw-like ovipositor on the females. When the leaves drop later this year, the larvae will burrow into the soil and overwinter as pupae. The adults, shown here, emerge in early spring, and are capable of attacking the same tree year after year.

Brenna Shea, May 3rd, 2024. Missoula, MT.

Thatching Ant

Formica sp.

This genus of ants has been described as “predatory with a sweet tooth.” Workers hunt or scavenge all manner of arthropods. They satisfy their sugar cravings with honeydew (aphids’ sugary waste product) and extrafloral nectar (nectar-secreting glands located outside of flowers), often foraging high in trees. Best not to mess with the nest, as workers will swarm, thrusting their abdomens forward to spray the intruder with a dose of formic acid, which lends itself to the genus name.

Sal Culotta, May 6th, 2024. St. Ignatius, MT.

Larder Beetle

Dermestes lardarius

This small voracious beetle, also known as a bacon beetle, belongs to the family Dermestidae (skin beetles… gross). As their name suggests, they are common pests of household pantries and “larders” and commonly feed on animal products like dried meats, pet food, and even pinned insect collections. They are found across the northern hemisphere and are active year-round. The adults overwinter in sheltered areas outdoors, then venture indoors in the spring to lay eggs.

Shelley Longgood, May 5th, 2023. Evaro Hill, Missoula County, MT.

Stink Bug

Coenus delius

Stink bugs aren’t the most desirable insects to have around, but they sure are stinkin’ cute. Coenus delius is the only species in this genus found in the northern United States and Canada. Most stink bugs (Family Pentatomidae), including this genus, are herbivores, and some are pests of crops and ornamental plants. Others prey on insects (subfamily Asopinae). Adults usually overwinter in ground cover or leaf litter, with females laying their barrel-shaped eggs on the underside of leaves in clusters with tight rows, typically in the spring.

Sal Culotta, May 9th, 2024. St. Ignatius, MT.

Longhead Sallfly

Kathroperla perdita

After several misidentifications, we’ve nailed this individual down to the species Kathroperla perdita, the Longhead Sallfly. This is one of two species of Kathroperla in the US, both found in the West; the third species in this genus is found in East Asia. Like all stoneflies, this species starts life as an aquatic nymph or “naiad.” Stonefly naiads require one to three years to mature, with the full-grown naiads crawling out of the water to molt for the last time and take to the air.

Trixie Masuch, May 4th, 2024. Greenough Park, Missoula, MT.

Western Yellowjacket

Vespula pensylvanica

There are 12 species of ground yellowjackets in North America, all sharing similar black-and-yellow patterning that makes them immediately recognizable. They are predatory wasps but also feed on nectar and honey, raiding the occasional honeybee hive for sustenance. They will also use their powerful mandibles to scrape wood and plant stems for fiber. By August, the queen will start producing males and other queens, who leave the nest to mate. The new queens overwinter while the males and the rest of the colony dies. The queens emerge in the spring to start their new colonies.

Sal Culotta, May 9th, 2024. St. Ignatius, MT.