Insect Orders in Montana
I have written a few posts on insects over the past few years for this blog: pine beetles, butterflies and moths in our area, insects that are eaten by trout, etc. This semester, I am helping a college student in independent studies (capstone) and one task for the student is to learn the orders of insects that live in Montana, and a few representatives of each. (The real interest for this student is spiders, but of course spiders are not insects -yes, the student knows this- and we'll tackle one set of crawling things at a time.)
My tribe the Ioway called insects, "wagri" (WAH-gree), "it crawls."
I learned about 10-12 of these insect orders in 10th grade when we had to make an insect collection, identify, label, and mount them as a display. We also had to do a leaf collection the same autumn, and I still have photocopies of the leaves. No, I didn't save the insect collection. The teacher threw out all our collections so the next classes couldn't cheat with inherited sets!
Why insect orders? Entomologists tend to specialize in particular orders. There are "beetle guys" (beetles = Coleoptera) and butterfly and moth specialists (Lepidoptera), and so on. So when you first begin to grapple with insects, learning the orders are one of the foundational tasks.
And don't call them all "bugs." Bugs are bugs at the order level.
So here is the list of orders currently identified as endemic to Montana. Climate change will doubtlessly cause some shifts, perhaps even at the order level. The online Montana Field Guide is one place to consult, but it focuses on insects important as food for gamefish such trout, so it is heavy on caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, and true flies. There are other orders such as Hymenoptera (Bees, Wasps) that aren't even listed there.
There are also various groupings of the taxonomic groups (taxa) by different scholars, who each have their proposed favorites. The groups pretty much stay the same, the scholars just sometimes insert Superorders that group certain orders together, or merge two of the orders in a proposed new order (such as the case with Hemiptera and Homoptera). Some of this is due to new DNA studies (whereas the older systems were based solely on morphology) and some of it is just the way taxonomists (and pretty much all scientists) tussle over new proposals.
KINGDOM - ANIMALIA
PHYLUM - MANDIBULATA (Insects, Springtails, Millipedes)
CLASS - INSECTA
ORDERS KNOWN TO EXIST IN MONTANA
Anoplura - Sucking Lice. Greek "anoplos" (unarmed) + "ura" (tail), referring to the lack of cerci (external copulatory organs) at the end of the abdomen. We have them in Montana.
Blattodea - Cockroaches. Greek "blatta" (cockroach). There are a few stories I have heard about cockroaches occasionally being found in Montana, for example in Missoula, but they aren't very common. I didn't see any growing up in Helena. Although cockroaches can deal with cold (like in NYC or Chicago) by staying in warm places, they also need moisture, and Montana is cool and dry, with relatively lower population density, so cockroaches don't have it easy here. Nothing like when I lived in Hawaii, and they seemed as common and numerous as mosquitos.
Coleoptera - Beetles. Greek "koleos" (sheath) + "ptera" (wings), refers to the modified front wings which serve as hard protective shells/covers for the membranous hind wings. Ex: Japanese beetle, Ladybug, Emerald Ash borer, Pine Beetle. See my entries on pine beetles at: http://hengruh.livejournal.com/91223.html
and at http://hengruh.livejournal.com/86073.html
and at http://hengruh.livejournal.com/67973.html
Finally, there is an interesting post on pine beetles and power animals at: http://hengruh.livejournal.com/47056.html
Dermaptera - Earwigs. Greek "derma" (skin) + "ptera" (wings), refers to the thickened forewings that cover and protect the hind wings. I have seen these in Helena, in wet places under wood piles for example.
Diptera - True Flies. Mosquitoes, Horseflies, Deerflies, Houseflies. Greek "di" (two) + "ptera" (wing) = 'two-wings', referring to the prominence of the two main wings. They all can get pretty bad during some summers, especially mosquitos along the rivers and the High Line. A cool mystery game about mosquitos, the West Nile virus, and birds is here: http://hengruh.livejournal.com/52339.html
Ephemeroptera - Mayflies. Greek "ephemera" (short-lived) + "ptera" (wings), a reference to the short lifespan of most adult mayflies. My post on Mayflies, Caddisflies, and Stoneflies and their interaction with Montana's trout is here: http://hengruh.livejournal.com/52148.html
Grylloblattodea - Icecrawlers, Rockcrawlers. Greek "gryll" (cricket) + "blatta" (cockroach), refers to the blend of cricket-like and roach-like traits found in these insects. Montana does have these, at high elevation near snow, ice and/or caves.
Hemiptera - True Bugs. Greek "hemi" (half) + "ptera" (wing). There are two Suborders: Homoptera and Heteroptera (in the old days Homoptera was a separate order from Hemiptera.
Heteroptera - Typical/True Bugs (Assassin bug, Bedbug, Stinkbug, Waterboatmen, Water Striders, Giant Waterbug). Greek "hetero-" (different) + "ptera" (wings), referring to the fact that the texture of the front wings is different near the base, where it is leathery, than it is at the apex, where it is membranous.
Homoptera (Leafhoppers, Planthoppers, Treehoppers, Cicadas, Aphids, Psyllids, Whiteflies, Scale Insects). Greek "homo-" (same/uniform) + "ptera" (wings), refering to the uniform texture of the front wings
===Back when I learned the orders in the late 1970s, Hemiptera were the true bugs and were a separate order from the Homoptera (cicadas, leafhoppers). Now the preference seems to be lumping the two old orders together as Hemiptera, and renaming the true bugs (previously Hemiptera) as Heteroptera (which in the older Linnean system were a suborder of Hemiptera). Are you confused? Yeah, me too. I thought the point of Linnean classification and Latin/Greek-based names were clarity and stability over the centuries! Sheesh. Anyways, this is a large group of insects in Montana.
Hymenoptera - Bees, Wasps, Ants, Ichneumon, Sawfly. Greek "hymen" (membrane) + "ptera" (wings). The name is appropriate not only for the membranous nature of the wings, but also for the manner in which they are "joined together as one" as in marriage by the hamuli (little hooks that join the fore and aft wings together), so the reference to Hymeno, the Greek god of marriage. Plenty of these in Montana, especially wasps in the late summer.
Isoptera - Termites. Greek "iso" (equal) + "ptera" (wings), refers to the similar size, shape, and venation of the four wings. "Termites are active in portions of Montana, including narrow bands along the eastern and western borders of the state. Termites are more likely to be found in western cities, like Missoula and Dillon, or eastern cities, like Miles City, than cities near the center of the state, like Great Falls or Billings, Montana. ...Subterranean termites are known to cause damage to homes in Montana. Drywood termites are not native to the state." (http://www.termites.com/regional-termite-information/montana/
) I haven't heard much about termite problems in Helena personally.
Lepidoptera - Butterflies, Moths. Greek "lepido" (scale) + "ptera" (wings), refers to the flattened hairs that look like scales, that cover the body and wings of most adults, and give them their color. My post on Helena's butterflies is here: http://hengruh.livejournal.com/tag/butterfly
Mallophaga - Chewing Lice, Biting Lice, Bird Lice. Greek "mallos" (wool) + "phagein" (to eat), refers to habit of feeding on mammals like sheep, though mostly they infest birds. None go after humans. In Montana, Mallophaga species for example are found on ruffed grouse and the water pipit, as well as Bighorn sheep.
Mantodea - Mantis. Greek "mantis", the name for these insects. Generally tropical and semitropical insects, praying mantis apparently do occasionally occur in Montana (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cjp5cVDa-fQ
), but I didn't see any growing up here and they aren't common.
Mecoptera - Scorpionflies, Hangingflies. Greek "meco" (long) + "ptera" (wings), referring to the shape of both the front and hind wings. An ancient group of insects that according to DNA evidence are the living ancestors of fleas, true flies, and butterflies. They are referred to as scorpionflies because the male genitalia appear like scorpion tails when they curl upwards.
Bittacus strigosus, Boreus californicus, Boreus coloradensis, Boreus nix, Boreus pilosus, Boreus reductus, Brachypanorpa sacajawea, are all Mecoptera that live in Montana.
Megaloptera - Dobsonflies, Alderflies, Fishflies. Formerly considered part of Neuroptera, but these are now considered separate orders. Greek "megalo" (large) + "ptera" (wings), for the large, clumsy wings. Not a very noticeable group of insects, except for the dobson flies, whose males have tusk-like mandibles which serve to attract mates. Their immature stages are aquatic. Two alderflies (Sialidae) are listed in the Montana field guide, Sialis hamata and Sialis velata.
Neuroptera - Lacewings. Greek "neuron" (sinew) + "ptera" (wings), also often translated as "nerve-wings" due to the branching patterns in the wing veins. Fossil Neuroptera from the Oligocene have been found in the Ruby River Range in Montana. Lacewings feed on aphids in Montana.
Odonata - Dragonflies, Damselflies. Greek "odonto-" (tooth), refers to the strong teeth found on the mandibles of most adults. I used to keep bright blue damselfies for a day or two as a kid to watch them, then let them go. Dragonflies hold their wings horizontal while resting, while damselflies hold them vertically and are usually much smaller.
Orthoptera - Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids. Greek "ortho" (straight) + "ptera" (wings), referring to the parallel-sided structure of the front wings (tegmina) that lie along the sides of the grasshopper while it is resting. Montana's late summers in the country are marked by the clickity-clacking of flying grasshoppers. Also see my post on grasshoppers/locusts at: http://hengruh.livejournal.com/106278.html
Plecoptera - Stoneflies. Greek "plecos" (braided) + "ptera" (wings). My post on Mayflies, Caddisflies, and Stoneflies and their interaction with Montana's trout is here: http://hengruh.livejournal.com/52148.html
Psocoptera - Booklice, Barklice. Greek "psokos" (rubbed or gnawed) + "ptera" (wings) - "a winged creature that gnaws". Not common in cool dry climate like Montana's, but sometimes found here in improperly stored grain.
Raphidioptera - Snakeflies. Greek "raphidio" (a needle) + "ptera" (wings), referring to this winged creature's needle-like ovipositor. I have seen these here in Helena. The long thorax and head are prominent and slender, with a raised snake-like appearance.
Siphonaptera - Fleas. Greek "siphon" (a tube or pipe) + "aptera" (wingless). Uncommon in Montana, because we are so cool and dry.
Strepsiptera - Twisted-Wing Parasites. Greek "strepsi" (turned or twisted) + "ptera" (wings), refers to the resting position of the male's large hind wings. There were Strepsiptera found parasitizing Ichenumon wasps near Bridger, Montana.
Thysanura - Silverfish, Firebrats, Bristletails, Springtails. "Fringed tail," Greek "thysanos" (fringe) + "ura" (tail). I've seen silverfish here in damp basements. It seems that these days the jumping bristletails are considered by some authorities as a separate order, called Archaeognatha. Greek "archaeo" (ancient) + "gnatha" (jaws), referring to the articulation of the mandibles, which has a single condyle, where all higher insects have two. The jumping bristletails have changed very little in appearance from their origins in the Devonian. An alternate name is sometimes seen, Microcoryphia, Greek "micro" (small) + "coryphia" (head). Jumping bristletails can use their tails to propel themselves instead of legs; they have small vestigial legs which appear more as bristles.
Thysanoptera - Thrips. "Fringed wing," Greek "thysanos" (fringe) + "ptera" (wings). Some are pests of grain here in Montana and affect gardens as well.
Trichoptera - Caddisflies. "Haired wing," Greek "trichos" (hair) + "ptera" (wings), refers to the long, silky hairs that cover most of the body and wings. My post on Mayflies, Caddisflies, and Stoneflies and their interaction with Montana's trout is here: http://hengruh.livejournal.com/52148.html
Orders Not Found in Montana=
Once classified as insects, Proturans are now in a class of their own. I have not so far found whether they are represented in Montana. I have never seen any Phasmatodea - Walkingsticks - in Montana, and they tend to be in warmer and more humid climes. Zoraptera - Zorapterans - is a poorly understood order of insects, mostly found in tropical and subtropical areas, and only two species in the U.S., in Florida for example, so it is doubtful they would be in Montana.
Embioptera - Webspinners - are also mostly tropical and subtropical species and I can't find any examples for Montana.
Common Forest Insects in Montana:
Douglas-fir Tussock Moth
Mountain Pine Beetle
Western Pine Beetle
Red Turpentine Beetle
Western Spruce Budworm
Boreus unicolor, a minute black leaping insect seen in the snow, is a species supposedly found only in Montana.