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Will uploading a sketch to an atmega using the arduino IDE and a USBtinyISP erase, or rather overwrite the bootloader that was on that atmega? and if so, is this beneficial in any other way than just freeing up a bit of space?

a noob question
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Yes it will - The benefits are 1. more space for your program, as you say, and 2. The sketch starts straight away, without the 1 Sec. delay.

But its easy to reflash the bootloader if you need it with the USBtiny.
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nice!
 thanks
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Bootloader is a programme that GIVEN its loaded onto the chip rests itself locked at one place in the chip and it stores the incoming Binary in the rest of the space on flash memory of the chip.

or else if its not there like in your case if you Burn the chip then the flash memory gets programmed from the very first memory block of flash over riding the Bootloader as a result.
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