Tags: insects

Fall Equinox: Another Step Into Fall

Yesterday was the Fall Equinox.

Today I noticed the lilac leaves are turning purple as a sign of fall. The ash tree leaves are already mostly yellow around the house. I saw also box elder bugs walking all over the house getting ready to find a place to hibernate. When they fly, their red abdomens hang like a laser pointer. I gently touched the antennae of several and watched them. People see them as pests because they come into the houses looking for their winter refuge.

I ate some juniper berries from the house trees. The key to eating juniper berries is to put 4-5 inside your lip and let them soak. Your saliva's enzymes brings out the sugar in a few minutes. Then after the sugar is gone, you spit out the rough bits if you like.

On another note, here's a cool resource to get you started in the observation of the night sky in 10 easy steps...with winter coming, the evenings will come earlier and Orion and his dog Sirius will be making his early evening appearance:

Montana Arachnids (Spiders and Allies) - Part 1 (Spiders)

I put together some info on insects in Montana a few posts ago, so now I am tackling spiders and other arachnids. As with insects, there is no comprehensive source on Montana spiders, so I had to collate materials from the internet and books. The sources are found at the bottom of this post.

Following are some of the most common types of spiders found in Montana.

Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda, Class Arachnida, Order Araneae (Spiders)

Class Arachnida – 8 legs not 6. Two body parts, cephalothorax and abdomen, not three (insects have head, thorax, abdomen). Includes spiders, mites and ticks, scorpions, daddy-long-legs (they are not spiders), windscorpions, whipscorpions.

Order Araneae – Spiders (over 3000 species in North America)
Although many spider bites can be painful or annoying, The only truly poisonous spiders in Montana are the two black widow species (both very docile and non–aggressive unless the female is protecting the egg sac), and the aggressive house spider, also known as the Hobo Spider, a nonnative. The brown recluse and yellow-sac spider have not been found in Montana contrary to popular belief, according to the most reliable sources.

Following are the families of spiders that are represented in Montana, in alphabetical order by family.

Family Araneidae - Orb-weavers / Garden Spiders

Probably the most impressive spider we saw as kids were the giant corpulent spiders hanging in their webs stretched between branches or fences: the spiders we called “Cookie Spiders.” We called these “Cookie Spiders” growing up…because some seemed as big and decorated as a cookie. As kids often do, we’d squash them and an incredible amount of juice splurted out. Now I know better, that the orb-weavers or common garden spiders are our allies and friends in our struggle with the garden pests, and I feel bad about it. “Legs rather stout and spiny. All eight eyes small, sub-equal, and seemingly grouped into pairs. Web is an orb with a closed hub. Their retreat is often away from the web....Orb weavers (Araneidae) are often brightly coloured with rounded abdomens, some with peculiarly angled humps or spines. However, there is considerable variation in size, colour and shape in this group. They are easily recognized because of their beautiful, large, round webs, on which they rest, head downward, waiting for prey. The webs consist of a number of radiating threads crossed by two spirals. The inner spiral begins in the centre, winds outward, and is made of smooth threads like the radiating threads. It covers only the central 1/3 of the web. The outer spiral begins at the edges and winds inward. It is made of more elastic, sticky threads, coated with a liquid substance. …” ...“Garden Orb Weavers are NOT dangerous (but can bite as can most spiders) and rid your garden of many unwanted insects. They only live for one season and die off as Winter approaches, leaving their egg sacs behind to hatch out next Spring.”

Examples: Araneus spp. - Garden or Cross Spider (Araneus diadematus), Marbled Orb Weaver (Araneus marmoreus), Shamrock Spider (Araneus trifolium) (lots of webs covered with dew at sunrise), Araneus spp. prefer to build their webs among tall grasses and shrubbery. Large bulbous abdomen and legs often ringed. Web a spiraling orb, spider usually hangs downward near center of web, or nearby resting site connected by signal line that lets it know when a struggling insect on web. Each night web taken down and replaced. If I recall correctly, Charlotte (of Charlotte's Web) was a Barn spider (Araneus cavaticus), which prefers shady locations. Shamrock orb-weaver. Mountains of sw Montana. “Shamrock or Pumpkin Spiders as they are called in different places scientific name is Araneus trifolium. A. trifolium is a spider which builds an orb-web and is classified in a group of spiders called orb-weaver spider. Colour is a characteristic that may help to identify a spider. A. trifolium is orange (though it may show up in a yellowish green or purplish form). Its large, bulbous abdomen is similar to a pumpkin. Measuring a spider's length also helps in its identification. A. trifolium is large, compared to other spiders. Size is an important way of distinguishing one spider from another. The abdomen also contains the stomach or crop. In the fall the abdomen and the entire spider grows quickly. The high vegetation the spider prefers produces an abundance of insect food; and in the fall there is a growth spurt when food is most plentiful. This sudden increase in size may be cause for the spider's "sudden" appearance. In fact, the spiders have been present all-year, but were much smaller and simply less noticeable. The spider tends to show up around Halloween - and that is how it got its common name "Pumpkin Spider."” (http://www.spiderzrule.com/shamrock.htm)

Other orb-weavers: Araniella spp., Argiope spp., etc. Examples: Laurel Montana. 2006. Orb web on backyard playhouse. “The largest and most striking of the orb weaving spiders is the banded Argiope spider (Argiope trifasciata). It is found in late summer and early fall among shrubbery and in gardens where they make a highly symmetrical orb web. Females are generally silvery, with dark and yellow striping. Males are rarely observed and are much smaller than the females. The banded garden spider is harmless.” (http://www.spiderzrule.com/banded06.htm). Another banded argiope from se Montana, dry, tall grasses, sagebrush, prickly pear. Legs striped brown and yellow, about size of nickel. (http://www.spiderzrule.com/banded.htm).

Family Agelenidae - Funnel web weaver spiders

“Spinnerets long, two segmented, and conspicuous. Eyes small, sub-equal, and arranged in two relatively short rows. Web is sheet or platform-like with a tubular retreat leading off from the center or one edge.” Spin sheets of nonadhesive silk. Funnel off to one side as hiding place. Above is 3-d barrier web- when flying insect hits web, it falls down on sheet, spider rushes out and drags it back to funnel where it eats. Grass spiders (Agelenopsis spp.) etc. (http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/fp.php?pid=8060106#b)

The most infamous member of this family in Montana is the Hobo Spider or Aggressive House Spider (Tegenaria agrestis) aka (Agelenidae tegenaria-agrestis) “Swift-running spider distinguished from non-poisonous funnel web spiders by chevron shape on its abdomen and legs which are not banded like other funnel web spiders.” Nonnative, the hobo spiders are from Europe, but were first seen in Seattle in the 1930s, and have slowly been spreading eastward. I never saw any growing up in the 1960s or 1970s, but they had spread into western Montana by the 1980s. Hobo spiders had not made it to eastern Montana as of 2008, but they are in Montana. (http://pep.wsu.edu/pdf/PLS116_1.pdf) 

Family Dictynidae - Dictynid Spiders

Dictyna major and Dictyna coloradensis - light gray with a dark stripe down their backs. Webs often light upside down pyramid. Many invasive plants have provided more places for these native spiders to nest, ex. Sulfur cinquefoil, spotted knapweed, leafy spurge. (http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=11-P13-00039&segmentID=6)

(NOT IN MONTANA) Family Loxoscelidae – Violin / Recluse Spiders

I am only listing this spider here because so many people falsely believe there are brown recluse spiders here in Montana. “Distinctive violin-shaped marking on the cephalothorax. The six eyes are arranged in three pairs forming a semicircle.” They do not spin webs. Violin Spider aka Brown Recluse Spider (Loxosceles reclusa) Not in Montana.

Family Lycosidae – Wolf Spiders

“Eyes arranged in three rows with four large eyes on top and front of head and anterior, slightly curved row of four small eyes. Females carry the globular egg sac attached by the spinnerets. The fourth pair of legs is the longest and frequently held stretched out behind the spider.” These spiders do not use webs. They are some of the largest spiders in Montana and run around after their prey, using their speed and visual acuity, moving into houses in the fall. Most live on ground and hunt at night. Only one group spins web (Pardosa spp.), others live under rocks or holes in ground. Burrowing Wolf Spiders (Geolycosa spp.) - The one that pretty much stays in its burrow and only runs out to kill; hides in burrow if senses vibrations like someone walking. There are many species of running wolf spiders (Lycosa spp.)

Family Oxyopidae – Lynx Spiders

Little spiders that hide and wait with front legs often raised and jump in fields with tall grass and herbaceous plants, but do not make webs or retreats. Mostly tropical but at least one common type in the Rockies, the Jumping Lynx Spider (Oxyopes spp.)

Family Pisauridae – Nursery Web Spiders

Include fishing spiders that run across water, swim, etc. In Montana there is the Six-spotted Fishin Spider (Dolomedes triton) in slow-flowing streams and ponds, where it will go after aquatic insects, or even small fish and tadpoles; found scampering over waterside plants.

Family Salticidae - Jumping Spiders

I have a fondness for these little guys. Square-fronted cephalothorax bearing four very large anterior eyes. Legs usually short and stout with the first pair sometimes enlarged. Diurnal. They do not use webs, but run around, and jump, using their speed and visual acuity to capture prey. They are small, but their little faces often look as though they see you or are looking back at you, before they spring quickly to their next location. “Jumping spiders and wolf spiders have two eyes much larger than the other six, probably an adaptation to help them better see their prey. Jumping spiders are small to medium sized spiders, usually stout bodied, short legged and hairy. They frequently have contrasting black, reddish, or yellowish markings. They are very agile, pouncing and feeding on small insects about the home. They are often seen on screens or near doors or windows.”
The most common jumping spiders in Montana are probably the Metaphid Jumping Spiders (Metaphidippus spp.) which are gray and brown, and are more common among plants, and the Daring Jumping Spiders (Phidippus audax) which are black with a gray/white crossband and are often seen hunting in the house, along the windowsills and sashes.

Family Sparassidae (formerly Heteropodidae) - Huntsman Spiders (nonnative)

Also called giant crab spiders, because of their size and appearance, they aren’t native to Montana, but they are sometimes found in houses as they can come in with bananas and other fruit. For example, one was found in a home in a western mountainous forested area.

Family Tetragnathidae – Large-jawed Orb Weavers

Extra large powerful jobs; one species is spread throughout U.S. and Canada and so is probably Montana, the long-jawed orb weaver (Tetragnatha laboriosa)

Family Theridiidae – Comb-Footed Spiders

“Medium to small sized, glossy spiders with globular abdomens, thin legs bearing few spines, and eight relatively large, protuberant eyes.” I have at times had to do a double-take in a basement or outhouse, because the American House Spider (Achaeranea tepidariorum) or House spider (Steatoda sp.) looks small, dark and jewel-like, similar at first glance to a black widow. The house spiders are dark brown, unlike the black widow, and they don't have the red/orange hourglass that female black widows have under their abdomens. There are two species of black widow in Montana: Western Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus hesperus) and Northern Black Widow (Latrodectus variolus ).

Family Thomisidae - Crab or Ambush Spiders

They hold their legs out to the sides like a crab. Wander over ground and plants in search of prey. “First and second pair of legs distinctly longer and stouter than the third and fourth. Abdomen usually broad at the posterior. Crab spiders are commonly seen on flowers, do not construct a web, and are typically brightly colored.” “Crab or ambush spiders are somewhat crab-like in shape and walk sideways or backward. They are medium sized and often brightly colored, with abdomens that are usually wide at the posterior end. The two front pair of legs are usually longer and stouter than the two hind pair and crab spiders often hold their legs poised to trap insect prey. They have eight relatively small, well spaced, light colored eyes. Crab spiders are usually found outside in gardens and landscaping where they spin no webs but forage for their prey or lie in ambush on blossoms or other parts of plants; some on wood fences. They are able to gradually change colors to match flowers for camouflage.” Crab spiders in Montana include the Goldenrod spider (Misumena vatia), the Flower Spider (Mimusa asperatus), the Elegant Crab Spider (Xysticus elegans), and the Thrice-banded Crab Spider (Xysticus triguttatus). There is another group called Inconspicuous Crab Spiders (Philodrumus spp.) that rest on tree bark, and are sometimes separated into their own Family Philodromidae.

By the way, if you sometimes see what looks like a spider that doesn't move for a long time, and you start thinking maybe it's dead, these “dead” spiders often really only the moulted skin off a spider that grew and needed a change.

Resources used:
MSU Extension Service MontGuide, Spider Identification and Management, by Gary L. Jensen, Will Lanier, and Catherine E. Seibert. MT 199210 AG Reviewed 3/05 (http://msuextension.org/publications/AgandNaturalResources/MT199210AG.pdf)
U.S. Spiders Identification Chart (not all in Montana). http://www.termite.com/spider-identification.html

Insect Orders in Montana

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.

PHYLUM - MANDIBULATA (Insects, Springtails, Millipedes)


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 Beetle
Fir Engraver
Spruce Beetle
Douglas-fir Tussock Moth
Mountain Pine Beetle
Western Pine Beetle
Engraver Beetles
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.


April 23- Weather, Phenology, Master Gardener, Insects

Yesterday evening we had a series of rainshowers, accompanied by lightning and thunder. In our Ioway tribe, the first time we hear Thunder, it is the New Year. The New Year is when the green plants are growing and flowering. Now it is time to stop telling the sacred stories for the snakes are coming out of their winter dens. The snakes protect the sacred places and the sacred stories, and they bite the transgressor.

The lilac bushes are going through bud burst, when the leaves spread out from the buds. Lilac leaves are used as tea when you have a fever. The dandelion leaves are tasty, pretty large and not too bitter (but isn't medicine always a little bitter?). I try and eat a handful every day. They are good for blood pressure, joints, and losing weight. A spring tonic for the ailments of getting old. I have violets around the house and nibble on those too. The box elder flowers are also out.

Last night I continued with the fifth week of the Master Gardener program (Level I). I posted the first class about a month ago, but the material is so dense and abundant, it got to be too much to post in detail every week. Through last night, we have covered:

Soils, Nutrients and Fertilizers (Parts 1-2)
Plant Growth and Development (Parts 1-2)
Herbaceous Annuals
Herbaceous Perennials
Growing Vegetables (Parts 1-2)
Integrated Pest Management (weeds, diseases, insects)

Last night's guest speaker was the state agricultural Entomologist (bug guy). This year is going to be bonkers for grasshoppers. If you are living in former range country, like out in the Helena Valley, you had better try any grasshopper controls before too long. As in, before the lilacs' flowering stops (it hasn't yet started).

Learned some other interesting bits about insects I didn't know, like the fact that pine beetles emerge and fly off to new trees in about the second week of August.

I chatted with the entomologist a little before class and looked at his collection of insects. (PS. Not all insects are bugs; bugs are only one class of insects). I mentioned that in 10th grade Biology we had to make a mounted insect collection in the fall (no I don't still have it). I got most of mine (about 50 different kinds) from the backyard above-ground pool we had back then.

The entomologist said they don't make collections anymore, not schools for the most part, and definitely not college level classes. In fact, they don't have an entomology department here in Montana anymore. They closed it down. Seems the old natural history type paradigm is out of favor, and all the "bug guys" are either shuttled into commercial agriculture or into genetics.

Apparently, the new entomologists can tell you the enzymes, pathogens and genetic codes in the gut of a beetle....but there aren't that many "biologists" who can actually identify living insects in the field anymore.

The Locusts are Coming

Looking like this summer will be one of forest fires and grasshoppers.

NEWCASTLE, Wyo. — Grasshopper infestations have taken on mythic tones here on the arid prairie of northeastern Wyoming — they blanket highways, eat T-shirts off clotheslines and devour nearly every scrap of vegetation on ranches and farms.

The myth may come closer to reality this summer than at any time in decades in several states in the West and the Plains.

A federal survey of adult grasshoppers last fall indicated that parts of Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho could face costly grasshopper infestations this summer.

Ranchers and farmers as well as federal and municipal pest control agencies are praying for well-timed cool and wet weather to stifle the young grasshoppers when they hatch around May and June.

In the meantime, they’re scrambling to line up the millions of dollars it will cost to battle an outbreak with aerial insecticide.

“They’re grass eaters,” said Tom Wright, a rancher near Newcastle in northeast Wyoming about 20 miles from the South Dakota border. “They’ll eat the leaves and leave the stem. And they will eat the stems finally.

“When they’re really thick, people say they’ll eat T-shirts on a line,” he said as he recalled a time in the mid-1980s when the grasshoppers were so thick that you couldn’t put your hand on the shady side of a fence post without squashing one.

Grasshoppers are found across the United States, but outbreaks of pest species are most common in the Plains and Western states. Different species range from a length of under an inch to more than 3 inches.

They provide some ecological benefits, serving as a food source for other animals. However, some pest species are capable of eating their body weight daily in vegetation and can waste up to six times more by dropping forage to the ground.

Making matters worse is the prevalence of migratory species in the latest surveys — insects that can fly 60 miles in a day.

The Wyoming acreage infested with 15 or more grasshoppers per square yard increased more than 10-fold from 2008 to 2.9 million acres last summer, according to federal surveys.

Regionwide, surveys predict at least 48 million acres of outbreak-level infestation this summer.

“In some states, we may see some of the most severe grasshopper outbreaks that we’ve seen in nearly 30 years,” said Charles Brown, the national grasshopper suppression program manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
No government agency keeps a comprehensive tally of the economic damage from grasshoppers, but the cost of spray programs can exceed a million dollars for a single county.

Last summer, when an outbreak first surfaced in Wyoming, the voracious insects hurt hay production and prompted some ranchers to downsize their herds.

Wright didn’t sell any cattle because of grasshoppers, but his calves weighed 30 pounds lighter than normal last fall as a result of the insects eating up forage. The grass damage also forced the ranch to buy extra feed to help its cows through the winter, costing about $10,000, he said.

Paying to participate in a spray program could make sense if it was cheaper than the alternatives, he said.

“At the point that (grasshoppers) eat all the grass, you have to either sell all your cows, lease grass somewhere else or buy hay,” he said.

Grasshopper eggs tend to survive better in untilled soil, but that doesn’t stop the grown insects from hopping to cropland and eating crops such as corn, alfalfa, sunflowers, soybeans and sugar beets.

“In the past couple of years, we’ve had some crop damage by grasshoppers, especially alfalfa and soy beans,” said Dave Boxler, a research technologist in entomology for the University of Nebraska based in North Platte.

In Wyoming, Gov. Dave Freudenthal announced this month a $2.7 million plan to help local pest districts and to pay for spraying on state lands this summer. Freudenthal and the state’s congressional delegation have also urged the federal government to make more money available for treating federal rangeland.

Pest managers combat rangeland grasshoppers by using planes to spray alternating strips of land with an insecticide that kills the bugs in the nymphal stage, meaning it must be applied within a few weeks after eggs hatch.

Entomologist Scott Schell of the University of Wyoming said the insecticide, Dimilin 2L, has a very low toxicity level for mammals, reptiles and birds. It also has little effect on bees, he said.

Gail Mahnke, supervisor of the Niobrara County Weed and Pest Control District, said she expects grasshopper treatment in the eastern Wyoming county to run about $1.2 million this summer. That works out to a cost to landowners of about $1.65 a protected acre. The district plans to spend its $60,000 in emergency reserves on the project, she said.

Mahnke said she’s not sure what will happen if weather conditions unexpectedly kill off the grasshoppers.

“When you’re talking a $1.2 million deal just in this county, and getting it all set up and having all that money sitting here, and then those conditions just happen to hit perfect, what do you do?” she said. (http://www.helenair.com/news/article_a8e61942-3af9-11df-a697-001cc4c03286.html)


We got a lot of moisture and snow that spring, so it wasn't bad for grasshoppers or forest fires at all!

Beetle kill changes face of Helena Forest

By LARRY KLINE Independent Record | Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2009 12:00 am

The most startling visible change to our landscape in the past decade is the rapid death of the pines. Lodgepoles and ponderosas alike have been destroyed in a seemingly inexorable onslaught by a tiny bug called the bark beetle.

The industrious little borer has turned the needles red on millions of acres of land throughout the Western United States and Canada. The most recent preliminary federal estimate is that some 5 million acres of Montana forests have been affected by the infestation, up about 2 million acres from last year alone.

The red-and-dead reality seen in the South Hills, the Helena National Forest and beyond has prompted much alarm and has led the managers of public lands to redirect efforts they already had under way to reduce overgrowth and fire danger in area forests.

But if there’s any assurance or consistent description of the issue to be found in this, it’s the fact that this has all happened before, and that these infestations are a natural part of the ecosystem.

A sizeable outbreak killed trees in the 1920s and 1930s. Another hit forests 30 years later. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, stands in Yellowstone and Glacier national parks took their hits.

“There’s a cyclic nature to this, especially in the lodge pole pines,” state forester Bob Harrington said.

“So … why is there reason to be concerned?” he mused. “Part of it is this is happening in very visible areas, especially for your readership. And what I think is a little different compared to the late ’70s … is we have a lot more homes in that (wildland) interface.

But there are new wrinkles this time. The beetles had been limited in past outbreaks by deep cold snaps that used to be a common feature of Montana winters, and severe cold is the bugs’ only real killer. But that type of winter weather is becoming more and more rare here.

Another change — while past outbreaks had hit some specific areas quite hard, Montana forests are in a position of extreme susceptibility across the board. They’ve been weakened by drought. And the massive fires of the early 20th century sprouted new growth that’s now mature – there are literally millions of acres of uniform stands of lodge pole that grew up after those fires, for instance.

“At this point in time, we don’t know the extent,” Harrington said. “And I think another difference this time is that we had millions of acres in the old outbreaks, for sure, but we have huge parts of Montana that are lodge pole pines that are now 100 years old. Now they’re ready to go.”

Mike Garrity, director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, agrees the beetle outbreak is on a scale not recently seen by humans, but he doesn’t believe the picture is as dire as some press reports have said. In an example, he pointed to the forest between Helena and Butte. A few years ago, those trees were bright red, which had the effect of drawing everyone’s eyes away from what’s still living.

Now, the red needles have dropped off, and a different image emerges.

“Your eyes focus on the red, once the red is gone, you see all the live trees that were hidden by the needles,” Garrity said.

“It doesn’t take long for the forest to recover from this,” he added. “My prediction is that once the red needles fall off around Helena, people will move on to some other hysteria. I think people are blowing this all out of proportion.

“It’s nature’s way of thinning out the forest.”

But while Harrington and Garrity largely agree on the nature of the issue, they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on how — or, in many instances, whether — to address it. And other folks have lined up in the same corners, fighting out another story that’s all too common in Montana: the interests of the environment versus the use of the resources it produces.

Garrity advocates thinning where needed. He agreed with the decision to temporarily close the Park Lake campground and day-use area because of the large number of hazard trees left standing dead. And he agrees with the decision to remove several hundred hazard trees along the cross-country ski trails at MacDonald Pass. But he doesn’t think the beetles are cause for much more.

“In general, if you look at the healthiest forests in our region … the area where there’s the broadest diversity of wildlife are in unmanaged forests,” Garrity said.

Harrington sees things differently. He believes a portion of the trees should be harvested to both manage the land and help the Montana timber industry.

“I think at first it’s a question of scale,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who’s advocating that we should start (cutting) in Helena and not stop until we get to Butte.

“We think on several fronts the state of Montana has a vested interest in seeing some level of reasonable, science-based management on the landscape, on all ownerships,” he added. “From a state perspective, we think it’s a good thing to employ people. We think it’s a good thing to generate economic value.

“The broader issue in 2010 in this country and in this state is: are we going to continue to outsource our forest products industry out to Canada and southeast Asia and Siberia … or are we going to continue to provide for ourselves?”

The beetle issues and the response will continue to evolve in the coming years, and the debate surely also will.


Ecologist questions logging as a response to beetles

By EVE BYRON Independent Record | Posted: Friday, November 20, 2009 12:00 am

Author and ecologist George Weurthner told a full house at the University of Montana-Helena Thursday night that if they’re going to do anything about the pine beetle epidemic in the mountains around the city, that they should probably proceed slowly and only in targeted areas around homes and communities.

Large, landscape-type logging of dead and dying trees in the Helena and Beaverhead/Deerlodge national forests, which are two of the hardest hit areas by beetles in Montana, probably won’t prevent large-scale wildfires, Weurthner said. He quickly added that he has seen data that makes him question if these anticipated, potentially catastrophic fires will even take place anytime soon, and that as people learn more about forest ecology they’re learning that accepted practices of the past weren’t always the best way to manage the forests.

“I think the take-home message is that no matter what we think we know today, we’ll revise that tomorrow and maybe even think the opposite in 10 to 20 years,” Weurthner told the crowd of about 100 people. “A lot of what we try to do about the forest is contrary to what’s best for the forest’s ecological system.”

He noted that after years of fire suppression, forest managers are realizing that wildfires are a necessary part of the ecological process. They’re finding that the frequency of wildfires is overestimated, and that what’s often called a “high-severity” fire isn’t necessarily bad, nor are beetle outbreaks.

And he questioned whether the oft-stated reason for some of the recent large fires has to do with years of suppressing wildfires, which led to a build up of fuels and is often the impetus for forest thinning projects. Instead, he attributes recent fires to a warming climate that makes conditions more conducive to large blazes.

“Fires need fuel, but that’s not enough,” Weurthner said. “They need drought, wind and an ignition source.”

He added that thinning the forest by logging only gives people a false sense of security, and that studies have show wildfires can move even more quickly at times through areas that have been treated.

He advocates leaving beetle-killed trees in the forests, saying that after their needles fall off they actually are less prone to burning. Those dead trees provide habitat for bugs, birds and small critters; they provide shade for seedlings; and they collect water.

“Dead trees don’t go to heaven, they stay on the landscape and play important roles. They’re a reinvestment back into the forest,” Weurthner said. “Salvage logging eliminates the ability of the forest to survive. … Logging is a sanitized forest.”

When asked during a lively question-and-answer session about whether to log the Ten Mile watershed west of Helena, which provides the bulk of the city’s drinking water and has been hit hard by the beetles, Weurthner said that perhaps a better use of money would be to get better hookups to the Missouri River, which is the city’s backup water source.

He noted that in other forests that were logged in the 1980s after beetles killed the trees, they’ve grown back and are now just as susceptible to wildfire as elsewhere.

“You have to consider other costs and wonder whether it may be worth it in the end,” Weurthner said.

Some of those in the audience challenged his statements, arguing that there are ways to log forests that don’t have the negative impacts he outlined, and that logging is a sustainable, environmentally friendly use of a renewable resource.

“There are no studies that show how many times mitigation efforts and thinning have potentially stopped big fires,” said Jim Cancroft, a private forester. “I’m just saying that you kind of knock any mitigation efforts except for around the house. I see, after 25 years of working in the woods in this area, that there are absolutely areas that could be treated and treated well.”

Weurthner acknowledged that logging could be strategic in areas near homes and communities, but he still questioned its effectiveness when the wind is blowing and steadfastly advocated keeping dead trees in the forests instead of removing them.

“I’m not sure if it works, but if you do (logging) to hedge your bets, do it close in where it does the least amount of damage,” he said.


Beetle-Killed Trees on Mount Helena

Commission approves plan
for beetle-killed trees

By LARRY KLINE - Independent Record - 08/04/09

City commissioners on Monday unanimously approved Helena’s strategy for cutting hundreds of acres of trees killed by the mountain pine bark beetle infestation.

Parks and Recreation Director Amy Teegarden and Natural Resources Coordinator Brad Langsather believe the city will need at least $825,000 to thin and log the roughly 500 acres of ponderosa pines already standing dead on Mount Helena and Mount Ascension and in the South Hills.

If the infestation continues unabated — a significant winter cold snap would check the bugs’ population n the cost could more than double to $1.75 million.

In many cases, the sizes of the trees being removed will necessitate mechanized logging equipment. Where possible, the cut trees will be chipped or burned. The city will give as much firewood as possible to low-income recipients, but officials aren’t exactly sure how they’ll dispose of all the material.

Project areas will be monitored and, where necessary, replanted. But Helena’s backdrop will significantly change, Langsather noted.

“What we do in the future will not be a Xerox copy of what you’re seeing right now,” he said. “The Parks and Recreation Department and the city commission will be painting a different picture.”

The forest that has grown up behind the Capital City in the past century was the result of a climate different from the one Helena is experiencing now, he added.

The large, immediate question is one of money. The city’s open-space maintenance fee, put in place in 2007, won’t raise enough money in the coming years to address the infestation’s effects — and, at the time, no one envisioned the need.

Acting City Manager Dave Nielsen said officials will approach commissioners in coming months with a spread of funding options, and he said other departments are joining in the effort to address the issue.

“This goes well beyond a Parks Department issue,” he said. “We’re going to take all of the resources we can muster at the city. This (strategy) is a jumping-off point.”

The city plans to cut two 100-acre patches on Mount Helena this fall. The two projects would include areas between the Powerline and Prospect Shafts trails and wrap around to the north side of the mountain, above Le Grande Cannon Boulevard. The $289,000 worth of work will be paid for with $125,000 in city money and $164,000 in state and federal grant funding.

The work likely will get under way in October, to avoid the height of the fire season.

Langsather and Teegarden also plan $536,000 worth of work on 300 acres in the South Hills next year.

Several city commission candidates n Dan Bernhardt, Dan Ellison and Marshall Gingery n spoke in support of the strategy.

Phil Johnson, a botanist, cautioned commissioners. He said some reactions in the community have bordered on hysteria, when the amount of fire fuels south of Helena are the same as they were five or 10 years prior.

He worries that Helena could damage the natural forest’s ecosystem.

“Any time you disturb that ground, you’re going to have unintended consequences,” he said. “Let’s do it in a very thoughtful way.”

“I believe that what we have here is exactly that n thoughtful,” Commissioner Alan Peura responded. “I think this commission and staff have been anything but hysterical.” He noted, along with Commissioner Paul Cartwright, that the city has worked to reduce fire fuels for several years.

Commissioners Robin Shropshire, Matt Elsaesser and Cartwright unsuccessfully tried several times to make small amendments to individual sentences in the three-page strategy document. All failed.

“I think all our ducks are in a row on this issue,” Peura said, calling the amendments “needless wordsmithing.”

Caddisflies, Mayflies, Stoneflies

A fisherman in Oregon describes stonefly, caddisfly and mayfly immature stages.

In developing locally-based beliefs, as I mention often, phenology is vital. While many focus on solar, lunar, and meteorological events, and the migration of birds and mammals, and the budding, blossoming and fruition of plants, don't forget the cycles of the insect world as well (we already talked a little about the pine beetle). You can't really understand your local ecosystem without better understanding of the insects in it. In Montana's phenological cycle, for example, we have the nymphs and hatches of the caddisflies, mayflies, and stoneflies. These have various cycles throughout summer. They are vital to Montana's famous trout. The hatches haven't happened as far north as Helena yet, but it won't be long; people have seen the immature stages in activity already. The following text is from GORP. The videos have been collated from various users of YouTube, not all the images and videos are necessarily from Montana, though all of the flies exhibit the same basic appearances and behaviors of their Orders.

Caddisflies (Trichoptera)

"These tent-shaped adults are distinctive with their skittering flying pattern. Unlike mayflies, the caddis has no nymph form. Their stages are the egg (which won't concern the flyfisherman), larva, pupa and adult. In the immature phases, the caddis larvae looks like a tiny grub, a wormy little thing. These larvae build houses of twigs, rocks and other debris and sediment in which they live, usually attaching themselves to rocks or other underwater structure. Trout find these cased caddis cocoon cuisine irresistible. This comes in handy when you are selecting an underwater fly to imitate them. The larvae matures into a pre-adult phase, the pupa. The pupa emerges from the case and swims (rises) quickly to the surface to hatch into an adult."

Mayflies (Ephemeroptera)

"The ubiquitous mayfly. Found everywhere. Upright wings. The mayfly has a short life cycle consisting of egg, nymph (larva) and adult. The mayfly larva tends to live in soft bottoms but can be found in rocky places as well. Generally though, silty areas are loaded with them. There are many species of mayflies, some 700. The nymphs, which are next to impossible to see, live out their time before becoming duns (the pre-adult phase) by burrowing, clinging or crawling. These larvae usually have three tails. The duns sheds its skin (and is vulnerable to trout at that time) as it prepares to leave the water and hit the sky. The repeated dipping of an insect to the water is a surefire sign of a mayfly laying eggs on the water surface. The mayfly adults die shortly after they lay eggs."

Stoneflies (Plectera)

"The stonefly is a clumsy, prehistoric-looking flying creature, more suited to a bad Japanese monster movie than the scenic stream. Stoneflies fly as erratically as my grandmother drives. The adults are flat and long with great wings that when not in use, lay down on their body. You may hear these called salmonflies but those are particular species of the order. The adults can range in color from brown to black to golden to orange. The life cycle of the stonefly is mostly on land — egg, nymph and adult. Keep your eyes open, you can see the nymphal shucks on tree limbs, rocks, logs where the adults have crawled out onto the shore. Stoneflies tend to like faster water, rocks, boulders, overhanging trees. You will see the stonefly's peculiar flying pattern if you see an insect as big as a small bird dipping and diving, sputtering and coughing and buzzing then splatting on the water. That's a stonefly."


Mothers Day caddis are hatching on Yellowstone

By MARK HENCKEL - Billings Gazette - 05/07/09

BILLINGS — The Mothers Day caddis hatch is coming off on the upper Yellowstone River.

In this part of the trout world, that’s big news for fly fishermen. It’s the first major hatch of the year here and the trout go on a big feeding spree and hitting dry flies.

Some Mothers Day caddis have shown up on the Stillwater River as well.

As always, anglers are watching the May weather and making the most of their days before high mountain runoff begins and the streams blow out with high, muddy flows.

Walleye fishing is good on the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir, but mostly spotty elsewhere.

Here’s this week’s rishing report:
Ackley Lake: The rainbow trout are working the shorelines and bank fishermen are doing well with PowerBait. — Don’s, Lewistown.

Bighorn Lake: It’s a varied bite with some trout, catfish, ling, perch and walleyes being caught in 20 to 25 feet of water. It’s spawning time for walleyes. — Pryor Creek Bait Company, Laurel.

Bighorn River: Fishing has been good to excellent, slower in the mornings, but great in the afternoons. Flows are up to 3,500 cfs. Midges and blue-winged olives are hatching and dry fly fishing is improving every day. — Bighorn Fly and Tackle.

Boulder River: The lower river is high and muddy. Above Natural Bridge is clear and fishing is good. Small stonefly and caddis patterns are working. Beadheads, prince nymphs, lightning bugs and biot bugs are working. — Rainbow Run Fly Shop.

Canyon Ferry Reservpor: Rainbow fishing has been good on the north end. The hottest spot for shore anglers has been off the Outhouse between the Dam and Yacht Basin. The rainbows are being caught on worms, egg sacks and flies. Walleye fishing is slow, with some action off the south dikes. — FWP, Helena.

Castle Rock Lake: Largemouth and smallmouth bass are biting well. Jigs and minnows are your best bet. A few small walleyes caught. — Minnow Bucket, Huntley.

Cooney Reservoir: Some trout and some smaller walleyes are hitting. A jig and leech is your best bet for walleyes. Nightcrawlers are working for trout. — Pryor Creek Bait Company, Laurel.

Deadman’s Basin: Rainbow trout and kokanee salmon are biting well. Most anglers are fishing from shore. Garlic marshmallows, worms and shrimp are working. No reports of tiger muskies. — Super D, Ryegate.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Dam area: Haxby, Graves and Bell Point and Bear Creek are producing lake trout. Fishing has been very good down the Big Dry Arm. Big walleyes and a lot of them have been caught. Jigs and minnows or Lindy rigs and minnows are your best bet. — Lakeridge, Fort Peck.

Fort Peck Reservoir, Hell Creek: Not a lot of guys fishing because of the wet weather. The northerns are starting to hit around Snow Creek and Sutherlin Bay. Lake trout are a bit hit or miss but it’s starting to pick up. Walleye action is spotty. Stable weather is needed. — Hell Creek Marina.

Gallatin River: Water temps are still cold, fish are holding in the slower deeper runs. Split-shot and double nymph rigs have been the ticket. Rubberlegs and golden stones have been working well. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Hauser Reservoir: Rainbow fishing has been fair while trolling green flatfish around Black Sandy. Lake Helena has been producing a few walleyes on crankbaits. — FWP, Helena.

Holter Reservoir: Rainbow fishing continues to be excellent from both shore and boat. Shore anglers are finding success at the Holter Lake and Log Gulch Ramps while using egg sacks or olive-colored wooly buggers. Boat anglers are doing well from Oxbow to Holter Dam while trolling orange Rapalas. Walleye and perch fishing is slow. — FWP, Helena.

Madison River: The lower river has one to two feet of visibility and a green tint. Cherry and Elk creeks are pumping some mud. The upper river has been pretty good some days and other days have been slow. The streamer fishing is starting to pick up. Little black caddis are starting to show up. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.

Missouri River, Below Holter: Pink stuff has been the main ticket, but some anglers are finding fish up on midges and we are strarting to see baetis hatching. Anglers working streamers are doing well and the fish are getting more active as the water warms up. — Montana Fly Goods, Helena.

Missouri River, Fred Robinson Bridge: It’s high and very muddy and rising. Paddlefish are being taken. Catfish, sauger and walleye fishing has slowed down. — Don’s, Lewistown.

Nelson Reservoir: Action is still pretty slow. Water temps are still cold. Walleyes are still spawning. — Westside Sports, Malta.

Spring Creek: High and muddy and no reports of many fish being caught. — Don’s, Lewistown.

Stillwater River: It’s high and muddy below the Rosebuds. Above, it’s nice and clear and the Mothers Day caddis hatch is coming off in the afternoons. Nymphing is good with beadhead sparkle prince nymphs, red copper johns, pheasant tails and beadhead caddis pupa. — Rainbow Run Fly Shop.

Tongue River Reservoir: Crappie action remains slow. Some nice northerns are being caught. Brandon Bradley, 13, of Sheridan, caught a 5.24-pound smallmouth bass off Camper’s Point. Bass fishing remains pretty good. — Tongue River Marina.

Yellowstone River, Huntley: Catfish action is picking up. The river has dropped and cleared. Cut bait is your best bet with some fish up to 12 pounds. No big numbers of sauger or bass being caught. The Yellowstone Catfish Challenge tourney will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the field has been filled. — Minnow Bucket, Huntley.

Yellowstone River, Livingston: The Mothers Day caddis hatch is coming off. Try caddis dries, pupa and larvae. Streamers during the hatch are very effective as well. Fish will still eat your standard fare so don’t ignore stoneflies, eggs, and assorted mayfly nymphs. — Montana Troutfitters, Bozeman.