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Arts & Culture

Author interviews, food, natural history, poetry, and more from "The Write Question", "The Food Guys", "Field Notes", "Home Ground Radio", "Front Row Center", and "Reflections West".

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?

Recipe: Salmoriglio Sauce

Jun 14, 2020
Marco Verch. CC-BY-2.0 foto.wuestenigel.com

Salmoriglio (sal-more-EEL-ee-yo) is an Italian lemon and olive oil sauce, marinade and dipping condiment for fish, chicken and practically any vegetable. Once you make it, you’ll wonder why you'd never heard of it before. That’s what happened to "Food Guy" Greg Patent: he lived for an entire year in Italy without ever learning of salmoriglio.

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.

Bug Bytes: Yucca Moth

Jun 12, 2020
Courtesy of Ann Cooper / https://bugguide.net/node/view/119525 ©2007 Ann Cooper

In Montana, the small soapweed yucca is a plant native to the central and eastern part of the state, east of the Continental Divide. But thanks to its showy, fragrant stalks of beautiful white flowers, it's a popular addition to gardens west of the divide too.

But there’s one big difference between yuccas growing within their native range versus the non-native transplants …the plant will only produce its big seedpods in its native range.

Is it because of differences in climate, soils, or maybe the amount of rain? It all boils down to the presence of one, very specific insect – the yucca moth – the only insect capable of successfully pollinating the plant.

Bug Bytes: Spittlebugs

Jun 12, 2020
A spittlebug nymph and adults.
Missoula Insectarium

You’re in your garden or maybe out for a walk in the woods …and you come across what looks like a fresh loogie someone just spit onto a plant. Gross!

Relax. A fellow human likely did not leave behind the white, foamy goop. It’s the telltale sign of a spittlebug.

Bug Bytes: Carnivorous Caterpillars

Jun 12, 2020
A non-carnivorous horned spanworm moth caterpillar.
Glenn Marangelo

With nearly 180,000 species of moths and butterflies in the world, it goes without saying that their larval stage of development – caterpillars – are equally abundant. And of all the different types of caterpillars in the world, inchworms are perhaps the best-known group.

Inchworms are species of moths in the family geometridae. Most of us have seen cute little inchworms inching along a branch or dangling from the tree canopy on a strand of silk. Their bodies tend to be green, brown or tan in color, helping these small caterpillars blend into their surroundings. With soft, almost gummy-like bodies, they’re seen as gentle vegetarians that have been the focus of many children’s books and stories.

That is, except for the ferocious gang of inchworms found in Hawaii.

Bug Bytes: The Human Botfly

Jun 12, 2020
Glenn Marangelo

You’ve taken a remarkable trip to Central or South America. You saw incredible species of birds and mammals, and of course were “wowed” by the amazing insects you discovered. You return with life-long memories, beautiful photos and some souvenirs. But unfortunately some travelers return with an unexpected stowaway...the human botfly.

Bug Bytes: Golden Buprestid

Jun 12, 2020
Glenn Marangelo

Forged in fire. Whether it’s glass or metal, many artists rely on heat and fire to make their craft. Then it should come as no surprise that a family of incredibly beautiful beetles also has a relationship with fire.

Metallic wood-boring beetles are commonly called “jewel beetles” because of their iridescent colors. And the golden buprestid is perhaps one of the shiniest examples. While primarily a bedazzled metallic green color, they also sport blue and purple highlights with a coppery-orange edge to their wing covers. They look more like a piece of insect art.

Bug Bytes: Dogbane Tiger Moths And Bats

Jun 12, 2020
A cycnia tenera moth, commonly known as a dogbane tiger moth.
Glenn Marangelo

On summer evenings, when darkness falls and most winged predators have called it quits for the day, bats awaken from their daytime slumber to rule the skies.

Despite darkness, thanks to their ability to echolocate – creating ultrasonic clicks and listening to the echoes that return – bats can create detailed images of their surroundings…including whatever tasty insects might be in their flight path.

Well, most insects, that is. Certain species of tiger moths have developed an effective way to avoid becoming a bat’s next meal. And perhaps none have been studied more than the dogbane tiger moth.

Bug Bytes: Dung Beetles To The Rescue

Jun 12, 2020
An introduced dung beetle in Australia. While the species is native to Africa, they are now widespread in northern Australia.
CSIRO / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CSIRO_ScienceImage_11207_Dung_beetle_Onthophagus_gazella_side_view.jpg

Insects play critical roles in our lives. Pollination, decomposition and soil aeration are just a few. And they do this behind the scenes, without much recognition or thanks.

So this episode is dedicated to a large group of unsung insect heroes…the dung beetles.

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