MTPR

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: Evolution And 'The Predicted One'

Jul 15, 2019
Xanthopan morganii praedicta moth
kqedquest, https://www.flickr.com/photos/kqedquest/3256354461/ (CC-BY-NC-2 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/])

When it comes to the topic of evolution Charles Darwin is "the man." In 1859, his book, On the Origin of Species provided compelling evidence that transformed the theory of evolution into widely accepted fact.

Evolution is the process by which an organism changes over time to better adapt to its environment. This theory includes the idea of coevolution — where two or more species evolve together for their mutual benefit.

Bug Bytes: Centipede Or Millipede?

Jul 7, 2019
Millipede and centipede
Shutterstock

So you’re digging in the garden and see something crawling in the freshly turned soil. With its many legs, it’s clearly not a worm. But what is it? A millipede or a centipede?

Both have long, segmented bodies and lots of legs. But despite these visual similarities, they could not be more different in terms of diet and behavior.

Bug Bytes: Aphid Ranchers

Jul 1, 2019
Ants tending to their aphid herd.
Missoula Insectarium

If you’ve ever noticed a group of ants milling about on a leaf or the stem of a plant and wondered why, take a closer look. You might only be seeing half of what’s going on.

While they lack pickup trucks, fencing pliers, and other tools of the trade of their human counterparts, these ants are likely ranchers. But instead of cows, they’re carefully tending their herd of aphids.

Bug Bytes: Fiddler Crabs - The Kings Of Animal Weaponry

Jun 24, 2019
Fiddler crab, Uca leptodactyla in Margarita Island, Venezuela.
(PD)

When you think of an animal with an impressive weapon, the first images that pop to mind might be a bull elk or moose with their massive antlers. Or maybe a bull elephant with its enormous tusks.

But the king of weaponry in the animal kingdom might surprise you: a fiddler crab that’s less than 2 inches long.

Bug Bytes: Insect Farts

Jun 17, 2019
Beaded lacewing
Lucinda Gibson, Museum Victoria [CC BY 3.0 au (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/deed.en)]

We’ve all done it. Most of us have joked about it. Even animals do it. Pooting. Tooting. Who ever denied it, supplied it. We all pass gas.

But did you know that insects fart too? And in the case of the beaded lacewing, they lend a whole new meaning to “silent, but deadly.”

Bug Bytes: Earwigs - Creepy But Caring

Jun 10, 2019
Earwig
David Short [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

For some people it’s spiders. For others it’s centipedes. But for many people, the answer to “What kind of bug really creeps you out” is earwigs.

Maybe it’s the big pincers at the end of their abdomen? Maybe it’s the fact that it's a bug with the word “ear” in its name. Whatever the case, they’re not high on many people’s lists of lovable insects.

Bug Bytes: When 'Follow The Leader' Turns Deadly

Jun 3, 2019
Army ants with larvae of a raided wasp nest.
Geoff Gallice [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

There are many games you probably played as a child. Games that for all intents and purposes were innocent and safe. But who would imagine that a game of “follow the leader” could be deadly?

It certainly can be for army ants. In fact, it can actually result in the death of the entire swarm.

Bug Bytes: Honey Bee Waggle Dance

May 21, 2019
When you see a bunch of bees visiting a particular patch of flowers, it’s not because they randomly stumbled upon this great food source. They are there because other members of their colony told them about its exact location.
(PD)

The next time you discover a new restaurant that you love, try telling your friends about it through interpretive dance.

That’s what you would do if you were a honeybee.

Bug Bytes: Bombardier Beetle

May 7, 2019
Bombardier Beetle - Paussinae subfamily, Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique.
Credit Judy Gallagher [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

If any beetle was said to have an “explosive personality,” it would have to be the bombardier beetle.

They may appear to be your average, everyday beetle, but they’ve got a surprise up their tiny little sleeves — or more accurately, their rear ends. They’ve got some serious junk in the trunk.

Bug Bytes: Moths Vs. Butterflies

May 7, 2019
Assorted Moths (Lepidoptera) in the University of Texas Insect Collection
By Insects Unlocked - CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61293267

In this corner, weighing in with approximately 700 different species in the United States … the Butterflies. And in the opposite corner, weighing in with over 15,000 species in the United States … the Moths.

While butterflies get most of the attention, moths dominate the order Lepidoptera (comprised of moths and butterflies) with 90% of the known species. But when looking at an individual, how can you easily tell which is which?

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