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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.

Pixabay

Nectarless orchids are masters of mimicry and can appear and smell identical to other nectar-rich orchids. Thus, they draw pollinators into their flower, and then the forced pollination begins. Certain orchids shoot sticky balls of pollen at their pollinators. Others are known to intoxicate the pollinators so that they fall into a chamber inside, and in taking the path out, they become covered in pollen.

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?

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.

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