Insects associated with Montana's huckleberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium globulare) plants and the bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) of Montana
Dolan, Amelia Clare.
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A key factor in understanding the success of any crop plant is knowledge of the underlying interactions between that plant and its insect associates. However, no research project has ever explored the insect community associated with Montana's huckleberries, a culturally and economically important specialty crop in the state. Additionally, baseline knowledge on the composition and distribution of Montana's insect fauna is lacking in many ways. Without baseline knowledge of what insects are present, monitoring and/or conservation efforts are impossible. In 2014 and 2015, insects were sampled from huckleberry plants at 21 study sites in the mountains of Northwest and Southwest Montana to identify possible pollinators and potential threats. Bumble bees, andrenids, and vespids were found to be the most frequent flower visitors, while a variety of Lepidoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Hymenoptera were collected from the plants' leaves and stems. An attempt was made to distinguish between actual biological associates and casual plant visitors. Over 30 possible associates were identified. Several new host plant records were documented and an undescribed species of Pristiphora (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae) was discovered. Bumble bees collected from huckleberry study sites, bumble bees collected across the state during the summer of 2015, and historic museum specimens were used to compile the first inventory of Bombus species in Montana. Over 12,000 Bombus records were examined and 28 species have now been confirmed to be present in the state while four additional species are predicted to occur here. Data have been made available to the public through an online database in order to inform future research and conservation efforts.