Trachemys scripta elegans “Red-eared Pond Slider” Emydidae

Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA
May 9, 2016
Robert Niese

Red-eared Sliders are a distinct subspecies of Pond Slider popular in the pet industry. Originally native to the southern US, these animals have been introduced to nearly every state including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam. As such, they are on the IUCN’s list of the 100 most invasive species in the world. They have not yet been reported in Montana, Alaska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, or North Dakota. If you see a Red-eared Slider in one of these states, contact your state’s Fish and Wildlife department immediately. Here in the PNW, these turtles out-compete native Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii) and the threatened Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata).


Sphecodes (arvensiformis) “Cuckoo Sweat Bee” Halictidae
on Euphorbia esula “Leafy Spurge” Euphorbiaceae

Blue Mountain National Recreation Area, MT
May 16, 2016
Robert Niese

Sphecodes bees are cleptoparasitic, cuckoo-like bees that lay their eggs in the nests of other sweat bees. Despite their outward appearance, these insects are not wasps, but they have converged on a very cuckoo-wasp-like life-history strategy. A female enters the nests of another Halictid, consumes a developing egg and replaces it with her own. Unfortunately, these bees, like the vast majority of Halictids, are very poorly studied and there are few entomologists capable of accurately identifying them beyond the genus level. Oh, and by the way, Leafy Spurge, while it is one of Missoula’s most widespread invasives, is also one of my favorite spring plants. They’re just such odd organisms! More photos and natural history info to come, I’m sure.

Looking back at my other photos of these bees from years ago makes me realize how far my skills as a photographer and natural historian have progressed.


Taraxacum officinale “Common Dandelion” Asteraceae (Compositae)

Missoula, MT
May 2, 2016
Robert Niese

Generic, but beautiful nonetheless. Each of those tiny wind dancers is actually a fruit called an achene. Each achene arose from an individual flower of which there are hundreds in a single dandelion head (actually there are only 50-200 flowers per head, but “hundreds” sounds better) . This is where the family got its old name, “Compositae.” Each of their composite “flowers” are made up of loads of tiny individual flowers. So next time your lover asks for flowers, pick them a couple dandelions and astound them with an offering of many hundreds of flowers instead of a measly dozen roses.


Myosotis latifolia “Broadleaf Forget-me-not” Boraginaceae

Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Marin County, CA
December 29, 2015
Robert Niese

This is not a species of Myosotis that we regularly encounter here in the PNW. It’s a common garden species, however, and some manage to occasionally escape cultivation. Coastal California is particularly rife with these escapees. They can be found in most moist, disturbed coastal habitats between Monterrey and Humboldt.

Coccinella septempunctata “Seven-spotted Lady Beetle” Coccinellidae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

This species has been repeatedly introduced to the US as a biological control agent to manage aphid outbreaks. It is reportedly out-competing many native species in our area, but still has managed to become the official state insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee. This individual was likely released as part of an ongoing Fish and Wildlife Service biological control project in the Drinking Horse Mountain area which has also involved intense invasive plant control (with goats!) in the past.

Dipsacus fullonum, National Bison Range

Dipsacus fullonum “Fuller’s Teasel” Dipsacaceae with frost

National Bison Range, MT
October 26, 2013
Robert Niese

Here’s a family that you don’t see too often in the Pacific Northwest! Sometimes grouped with the Caprifoliaceae, Dipsacaceae has members that are native to the Old World only. Here in western North America, we get two invasive species – the Teasel and the Bluebutton (Knautia arvensis). In spite of being quite abundant in some areas (like the low basins of the north-eastern side of the Bison Range), I’ve never had the opportunity to examine these plants while they’re in flower. I’ve always just assumed they were some kind of Asteraceae! When it comes to natural history, there’s always more to learn!

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) Phasianidae

No Data Available
Specimen courtesy of the Slater Museum
Photo by Robert Niese

Pheasants are native to Asia, but they have been introduced by European hunters to nearly every continent as a game bird. Here in North America, they have done particularly well and stable populations can be found throughout the plains and northern states and Canada. In spite of being considered a pest in much of their range, the males have strikingly ornate plumage and they are loved by millions (they even have their own advocacy organization!).

Myosotis stricta (micrantha) “Strict Forget-me-not” Boraginaceae

Missoula, MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

There are several species of Myosotis in our region – four of which have flowers that are less than 5mm in diameter! Of these small-flowered species, M. verna tends to have white flowers, M. laxa has sepal hairs that are not hooked at the tip, and M. discolor produces flowers that are yellow at first, but turn purple with age. M. discolor and M. stricta tend to be our most common tiny, weedy, roadside inhabitants here in the PNW. The flowers on this particular specimen were only 2mm across!

Phleum pratense “Timothy” Poaceae

Seeley Lake, MT
September 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Timothy grass has been introduced throughout most of North America and is commonly found along roads and trails here in western Montana. It flowers late in the summer and by fall its inflorescence dries out and it begins looking quite sedge-like. It is easily distinguished from other similar grasses by its double-pointed, horn-like spikelets.

Leucoma salicis “Satin Moth” Lymantriidae (now Erebidae)

Clinton, MT
July 25, 2015
Robert Niese


Here’s another species from our National Moth Week event

with the Missoula Butterfly House. Satin Moths are native to the Palearctic, from the British Isles to Japan, but was introduced to the US in the 1920s. The moth was originally introduced to the Northeast, but specimens have been collected from the Pacific Northwest quite regularly in the past years, suggesting that a new population may have been introduced here recently. Their larvae eat the leaves of aspen, poplar, and willow until they’re fat enough to overwinter under the bark of their host trees. Adults are nearly pure white and hard to confuse with any other local moth species. And they’re so darn cute!