The spate of freezing temps recently has thinned our bug sightings this week, but regardless, we received some stunning submissions! Our header photo features a Brown Elfin, a small species of butterfly found in various habitats in western Montana from May to mid-June. They often fly in the company of others while puddling or sipping nectar. The olive-green caterpillars feed on flowers, fruits, and leaves of plants in the Heath family, including huckleberry. 

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

Header Photo: Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustinus). Kristi DuBois, April 20th, 2024. Mineral County, MT.

Slender Crab Spider

Tibellus sp.

We believe this may be Tibellus oblongus, one of seven species of Tibellus in North America north of Mexico. Slender crab spiders are ambush hunters, almost always found lying in wait on stems, stalks, or leaves. While this daffodil at the Missoula Iris Society’s garden at Fort Missoula provides a nice contrasting backdrop, you can easily imagine how it would disappear in the grass. Female slender crab spiders are dutiful mothers, spinning a flattened egg case and guarding it until the spiderlings emerge.

Heather McKee, April 25th, 2024. Fort Missoula, Missoula, MT.

Masked Hunter

Reduvius personatus

Masked Hunters are assassin bugs, a group of true bugs that use a pointed beak to impale and consume their prey. It goes without saying that they can deliver a painful bite to any unsuspecting humans. While the adults are black, the bodies of the nymphs are covered with sticky hairs. They use the hairs to “mask” themselves with a coating of dust, lint, or whatever debris is nearby, giving them the appearance of a dust bunny. But don’t be fooled; even the nymphs are capable of a painful poke.

Sal Culotta, May 1st, 2024. St. Ignatius, MT.

Brown Marmortaed Stink Bug

Halyomorpha halys

Okay, we’re slightly cheating here. Brenna found this stinker when visiting her family in Olympia, WA. But we’re including it in our report because this invasive bug’s range has expanded into Montana in recent years. This true bug likely arrived on the east coast by accident in 1998, and has since expanded to nearly every state and parts of southern Canada. They are generalists, feeding on over 100 species of plants and can cause extensive damage to agricultural crops. Keep your eye out!

Brenna Shea, April 19th, 2024. Olympia, WA.

Oil Beetle

Meloe sp.

This strange-looking beetle is an oil beetle in the genus Meloe. As you might guess from their short, stubby wings, the adults are flightless ground-dwellers. Even if they possessed larger wings, seeing them lift off would be a humorous sight, given their comically bloated abdomens. If handled, they deploy a chemical defense that burns and blisters skin, so admire with your eyes, not your hands.

Sharon Dill, April 30th, 2024. Blue Mountain Recreation Area, Missoula, MT.

Wolf Spider

Trochosa sp.

This wolf spider is likely one of two species in the genus Trochosa; the Rustic Wolf Spider (T. ruricola) or the Ground Wolf Spider (T. terricola). These two species are nearly impossible to tell apart without dissection, but this individual is almost certainly a male, based on the size of the pedipalps.

Kenny Scruggs, April 24th, 2024. Missoula, MT.

Orange-legged Furrow Bee

Halictus rubicundus

If you’re out looking for bugs and nothing seems to be active, you can always count on a sweat bee to be perched on a dandelion. They sometimes sting if disturbed, though the sting is not very painful. The Schmidt Pain Index describes their sting as “light, ephemeral, almost fruity. As if a tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.”

Rachel Johnson, April 25th, 2024. Missoula, MT.