A Season of Bees

by Skip Via

Tris Hoffman’s wonderful article A Very Special Bee (published here earlier this spring) prompted me to finally get serious about being able to identify a few of the plethora of native bee species we see here in the West Valley area of the Flathead. It’s an ongoing process, but with Tris’ help, iNaturalist, and other local and online sources, I’ve been able to catalog the following species this summer. It’s the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, given that Montana has more than 20 species of native bumblebees (not to mention the native sweat bees, miner bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, and others) but it’s a start.

Continue Reading →

The Three Musketeers of Wasps

by Tris Hoffman, Flathead National Forest Weed Coordinator

Walt Disney got it wrong:  The bald-faced hornet

When Disney adapted A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh into a cute animation, he made mistake.  If the “Bear of Very Little Brain” wanted honey, he should have looked for a large hollow tree. The illustrations in Milne’s original stories show Pooh climbing a large tree, but he is not going after the papery egg-shaped nest that the animated bear seems to obsess about.  Disney’s globular gray nest would never provide Pooh with honey, because that is a typical nest of a bald-faced hornet.

Continue Reading →

Galls: Growth on Plants

by Pat Jaquith

Winter is a good time to spot unusual things when the leaves are off and grasses are dry and beaten down by snow. Sometimes it just takes a splash of color that you wouldn’t expect to draw your attention to an unusual growth. The galls in this article all are caused by different insects but are benign, that is, they usually don’t harm the plant they are on.

Continue Reading →