Common Bugs of The Rocky Mountains

bug dog bug 1Bugs are truly fascinating little creatures. They are all around us in the Rocky Mountains and all over the world in numbers that are astounding.  It is estimated that there are 200 million bugs for each human on the planet.

Bugs live nearly everywhere, from mountains to deserts and even in Antarctica.  In the Rockies you may find them under rocks, on trees, eating leaves, flying in the air, or even on or in water.  Keep your eyes open and carefully pick up rocks or look under logs and you are certain to find lots of amazing bugs.

Here are some of the more common bugs that you may find in the Rocky Mountains:


bugs cicadaThere are over 1,500 species of cicadas.

A cicada spends most of it’s life underground living as a larva.  Most live underground for one year.  Then they come out of the ground and attach themselves to trees, plants or other structures.  After some time, they pop out of their skin and become an adult that is able to fly.

A cicada makes the loudest sound of any insect.  Only the males make the noise in order to attract a mate or sound an alarm.  The sound can be heard in the daytime up to 1/2 a mile away.

 Common Black Ant

bug common black antAnts have the largest brain of all insects.  The black ant is one of nearly 10,000 different kinds of ants.

There are three kinds of ants in a colony: Queen (just one per colony who makes the babies); Workers (these are all females); and Males (there are only a few of these, whose job is to mate with the queen and to find a spot for a new colony).

Common Black Ants live in a colony, which can consist of a thousand up to a million ants.  These colonies could be in an anthill in the ground or in a rotten log.  The homes are complex structures with many tunnels and passageways leading to rooms that serve different purposes such as food storage or a nursery for the babies.


bugs dragonfly goodMost of a dragonflies’ life is spent as a larva where it lives in water for two to three years.  When it is ready, it emerges from the water, sheds it skin and becomes a winged adult.  The adult lives for about 4 months and stay within a few miles of where they are born.

They are carnivores, eating flying bugs such as mosquitos while they are adults.

bugs dragonfly larva goodA dragonfly needs warmth to fly.  It the sun goes behind a cloud, you may see the dragonfly land and rest till the sun comes back out.

A dragonfly is an amazing flier.  It is the fastest flying bug – flying up to 35 mph!  It’s four wings are not connected, which allow it to fly up, down, forwards, or backwards.


bugs grasshopper 2Grasshoppers are herbivores, meaning they eat plants such as grasses and leaves.

There are over 18,000 different kinds of grasshoppers, ranging in size from less than one inch up to 5 inches.

They live for about one year.

Grasshoppers use their front legs for walking and their back two for jumping and making noise.  They can jump up to twenty times their body length.  They can also fly for short distances.

Honey Bee

bugs honey beeThere are about 4,000 kinds of bees in the United States.  Most of these live alone in  holes in the ground or in wood.  Some, including the honey bee, are social and live in colonies.  A honey bee hive may contain up to 80,000 bees.

A honey bee is the only kind of bee that produces honey.  A hive takes the nectar from millions of flowers and can make up to 50 pounds of honey in a year.

A honey bee will die it it uses it’s stinger once.

Similar to ants in a colony, there are three kinds of bees in a colony: Queen (lays the eggs), Female Worker (do all the work, including protecting the hive by stinging, and are the ones most people see), and the Male Drones (only job is to mate with the queen).


A ladybug larva.

A ladybug larva.

Ladybugs are a kind of beetle that undergo a complete metamorphosis.  That means the larva or young bug looks nothing like the adult.  The larva is wingless, black and orange, and resembles a little alligator.

bug ladybug with spotsLadybugs have the same number of spots their entire lives.  The spots on a ladybug have nothing to do with how old they are or whether or not they are male or female.

During the winter ladybugs gather in large groups in holes in trees or under leaf litter to hibernate. They do this in order to keep each other warm and survive the winter.


bugs mosquitoe sucking bloodMosquitos live near a water source such as a lake, pond, or river and they usually stay within a mile of the place they are born.

They have a short life, living on average two weeks to six months with females living longer than males.

Why do they bite and suck our blood?  Only the females actually bite.  They bite people because they need the protein from blood in order to help develop their eggs.  In other words, without blood they could not have babies.

Mud Dauber

bugs mud dauber goodA mud dauber is a kind of wasp that eats other insects.  They have a long body, with a very thin, threadlike waist.

They have a stinger and unlike bees, they can sting repeatedly.  Luckily though they are not aggressive and live alone.

They get their name from the fact that they build a nest out of mud on trees or buildings.  Here is the neat part – each cell of the mud nest contains one egg, an insect, and is sealed off.  The mud dauber adult stings an insect and paralyzes it, which means it is alive but can’t move.  Then the mud dauber places the paralyzed insect inside a cell of it’s nest that already has an egg in it.  When the egg hatches it then has a nice meal waiting for it.

Pill Bug

bug pill bugA Pill Bug has many names such as a Roly Poly or Potato Bug.  This is not a true bug because it has more than three body parts and lots of legs.  Rather it is a kind of crustacean (related to shrimp).

Pill Bugs eat decaying plants or other vegetation.  They live up to two years and are mainly active at night.

bug pill bug ballThe mother carries around her eggs with her in a pouch on the underside of her body.  When the eggs hatch, the babies stay in the pouch a few more days before leaving.

They have a great defensive mechanism whereby they roll up into a ball.

Yellow Jacket

bugs yellow jacket nest goodYellow Jackets have a yellow and black body with a stinger at the end of it’s body.

They are social insects and live in a colony of up to 1,000!  They build paper like nests in logs, trees, or even underground.  The nests look like they are made of paper, but they are not.  In fact the Queen chews up wood fiber, mixing it with saliva and spits it out to create the nest.

bugs yellow jacketEach colony has a queen whose job it is to lay eggs.  The queen lives only for one season, but new queens are born and build new colonies in the spring.

Be aware!  Yellow Jackets can sting repeatedly and are aggressive.

Water Strider

bugs water striderA water strider is a bug that lives on the surface of freshwater ponds, lakes, or calm streams.  It has a long, thin body about 3/4 inch in length with two antennae and six legs.

It will not bite people.  However, it is a carnivore and eats other insects such as mosquito larvae.  It detects them on the surface of the water by using its two front legs to sense movement.

It can’t swim, but slides along the surface of the water by spreading out its legs and distributing its weight evenly.

They have to keep moving so that fish don’t eat them and so they can beat fish to eat insects that fall on the water.