Montana Public Radio

Bug Bytes

  • Hosted by Glenn Marangelo, Jen Marangelo - Missoula Insectarium

As described by Edward O. Wilson — perhaps the best known American biologist, researcher, naturalist and author — invertebrates are "The Little Things That Run the World." And indeed they do, in so many ways. In terms of numbers — while most invertebrates are pretty small, the sheer number of them is astounding. Together, they have more biomass than any other animal on earth.

Learn more about the fascinating creatures that run the world, with Bug Bytes from the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium.

Bug Bytes: Burying Beetles And Mites

Jun 16, 2020
Photo courtesy of Kyle Hartse

Burying beetles are often called sexton beetles since they perform duties similar to a sexton or gravedigger.

These beetles have an amazing ability to locate fresh carrion from long distances, allowing them to find this valuable food source before competing scavengers do. But rather than consume the departed mouse, vole, shrew or other small vertebrate for themselves, they have other plans.

Bug Bytes: Giant Ichneumon Wasps

Jun 16, 2020
Glenn Marangelo

Learning to identify different wasp species can be challenging, but it’s not brain surgery.

Well…actually, in this case it just might be.

We’re talking about giant ichneumon wasps – a genus of only four species in North America. Females range from 3-4 inches in length, including what appears to be a long, massive stinger. While intimidating looking, they’re harmless. This stinger is actually an ovipositor, used for laying eggs.

Bug Bytes: How Fireflies Glow

Jun 16, 2020
An adult beetle of the family Lampyridae, more commonly known as a "firefly" or "lightning bug."
Bruce Marlin / http://www.cirrusimage.com/beetle_firefly_Photuris_lucicrescens.htm

If you’re lucky, it might be an annual occurrence in your backyard. For others, it may be a memory from a summer vacation. And for all the romantics out there, it’s the icing on the cake to a picture-perfect summer evening.

We’re talking about fireflies.

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are famous for their glowing, flashing rear ends. But the questions are how and why do they have a glimmering derriere?

Bug Bytes: Voodoo Wasp

Jun 16, 2020
A moth caterpillar with pupae of the Braconid parasitoid wasp Glyptapanteles sp., more commonly known as the Voodoo wasp.
Professor José Lino-Neto / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyptapanteles#/media/File:Glyptapanteles.png

The more you learn about the insect world, you realize that the act of parasitism – where one species lives off of and feeds upon another species – is surprisingly common. This is especially true among wasps.

And while the act of parasitism may seem a bit gory, the details can be incredibly fascinating. In the case of a wasp commonly called the Voodoo wasp, it takes parasitism to an entirely new level by also controlling its victim’s behavior.

Bug Bytes: Tarantula hawk - Pepsis wasp

Jun 15, 2020
An examples of Pepsis formosa, more commonly known as the tarantula hawk.
Glenn Marangelo

The deserts of the southwestern United States are home to some remarkable animals. One kind of creepy crawly often associated with this region is the tarantula. With several species growing to the size of an adult human’s hand, they are certainly impressive.

But what’s even more impressive is an aerial predator called the tarantula hawk. While images of a feathered predator with talons might pop to mind, tarantula hawks are actually wasps.

Bug Bytes: The Story Of Pepe

Jun 15, 2020
Pepe the Pepper Weevil enjoying a pepper extravaganza.
Glenn Marangelo

It was a cold, snowy New Year’s Day in western Montana. What better way to kick off a new year of meals than making a pot of chili?

After purchasing the onions and variety of peppers going into our meal, we began the preparation process. But cutting into what appeared to be an unblemished green pepper, we surprisingly found a little friend staring back at us.

Bug Bytes: Sloth Moths

Jun 15, 2020
A three-toed sloth at Lake Gatun in the Republic of Panama.
Stefan Laube / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-toed_sloth#/media/File:Bradypus.jpg

It’s no secret that sloths move slowly. In fact, they move so slow, unique assemblages of insects can actually take advantage of their pace and align their lifecycle with these slow-moving hosts.

An interesting example is the relationship between the brown three-toed sloth and a moth aptly called the sloth moth.

Bug Bytes: Old World Vs. New World Tarantulas

Jun 15, 2020
A Mexican red knee tarantula, a New World species.
Brenna Shea / Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium

With over 900 different species, there’s a lot of diversity in the tarantula world. They range from the size of your thumbnail to the size of a Frisbee.

But at the most basic level, tarantulas can be divided into two different groups – old world and new world.

Bug Bytes: How Bees Make Honey

Jun 15, 2020
A honeybee visiting a flower in Montana.
Glenn Marangelo

Liquid gold…honey, that is.

Honeybees make honey as a food source to feed the colony, particularly during winter, but exactly how do they make it?

An adult female winter tick.
Griffin Dill / University of Maine Cooperative Extension

If you spend lots of time in the great outdoors, at one point or another you’ve likely encountered a tick. Certainly not the kind of animal encounter you we’re hoping for.

Aside from the unappealing thought of these creepy arachnids burrowing into your skin for a blood meal, in certain parts of the country different tick species can cause significant problems with the transmission of Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever or other diseases.

But there’s another species of tick that largely goes unnoticed by humans – the winter tick…also known as the moose tick.

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