Montana Public Radio

parasite

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: 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 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.

Scott Opitz, fisheries biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, stands near the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, MT August 25, 2017.
Nate Hegyi - Yellowstone Public Radio

Montana officials say they recently discovered dead fish in the Yellowstone River and are waiting on test results to know if they were killed by the same parasite that killed thousands of fish last year.

Paintbrush: The Prettiest Parasite On The Prairie?

Apr 25, 2017
Indian paintrbrush (Castilleja linariifolia) in Grand Teton National Park.
(PD)

Most people are familiar with the showy red or yellow flowers of the Indian paintbrushes. They can be found from the dry valley grasslands to lush alpine meadows. There are 21 species of the paintbrush just in Montana, including bristly paintbrush, the red-flowered species of dry slopes and scarlet paintbrush which is common in meadows and along streams.

Swimmer's Itch Hits Reservoir Near Great Falls

Jul 14, 2015
Showering after swimming in a lake or reservoir can help remove mites that cause swimmer's itch.
(PD)

Some swimmers got an unpleasant surprise after taking a dip in the Willow Creek reservoir east of Great Falls recently. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports several people developed a case of "swimmer’s itch", which can be anything from a minor annoyance to a major problem if scratching it leads to a bacterial infection.

Flickr user, Nuuuuuuuuuuul

Modern interest in mistletoe as a possible treatment for cancer began in the 1920s. For centuries, it had been used as something of a cure-all, but when mistletoe's immunostimulant properties were confirmed, the Druids' reverence for the healing power of this parasite got some scientific validation. Since then, lots of studies have been done in Germany, where many cancer patients augment conventional treatment with mistletoe extracts. In the lab, it kills certain cancer cells, while boosting the number and activity of white blood cells.