List of the 50 U.S. State Insects

Insects That Symbolize U.S. States and How They Were Chosen

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Hadley, Debbie. "List of the 50 U.S. State Insects." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/list-of-the-50-u-s-state-insects-1968585. Hadley, Debbie. (2017, March 3). List of the 50 U.S. State Insects. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/list-of-the-50-u-s-state-insects-1968585 Hadley, Debbie. "List of the 50 U.S. State Insects." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/list-of-the-50-u-s-state-insects-1968585 (accessed September 22, 2017).

Forty U.S. states have chosen an official insect to symbolize their state. In many states, schoolchildren were the inspiration behind the legislation to honor these insects. Students wrote letters, collected signatures on petitions, and testified at hearings, trying to move their legislators to act and designate the state insect they had chosen and proposed. Occasionally, adult egos got in the way and the children were disappointed, but they learned a valuable lesson about how our government really works.

Some states have designated a state butterfly or a state agricultural insect in addition to a state insect. A few states didn't bother with a state insect, but did choose a state butterfly. The following list includes only insects designated by legislation as the "state insect."

 

01
of 50

Alabama

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly. Photo: © Debbie Hadley, WILD Jersey

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

The Alabama Legislature designated the monarch butterfly to be the state's official insect in 1989.

02
of 50

Alaska

Four-spotted skimmer dragonfly.
Four-spotted skimmer dragonfly. Photo: Leviathan1983, Wikimedia Commons, cc-by-sa license

Four-spotted skimmer dragonfly (Libellula quadrimaculata).

The four-spotted skimmer dragonfly was the winner of a contest to establish the official insect of Alaska in 1995, thanks in large part to the students of Auntie Mary Nicoli Elementary School in Aniak. Representative Irene Nicholia, a sponsor of the legislation to recognize the dragonfly, noted that its remarkable ability to hover and fly in reverse is reminiscent of the skills demonstrated by Alaska's bush pilots.

03
of 50

Arizona

None.

Arizona has not designated an official state insect, although they do recognize an official state butterfly.

04
of 50

Arkansas

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

The honey bee gained official status as the state insect of Arkansas by a vote of the General Assembly in 1973. The Great Seal of Arkansas also pays homage to the honey bee by including a dome-shaped beehive as one of its symbols.

05
of 50

California

California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice).

The Lorquin Entomological Society took a poll of California entomologists in 1929, and unofficially declared the California dogface butterfly to be the state insect. In 1972, the California Legislature made the designation official. This species only lives in California, making it a very appropriate choice to represent the Golden State. 

 

06
of 50

Colorado

Colorado hairstreak.
Colorado hairstreak. Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Colorado hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus).

In 1996, Colorado made this native butterfly their official state insect, thanks to the persistence of students from Wheeling Elementary School in Aurora. 

 

07
of 50

Connecticut

European praying mantid.
European praying mantid. Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

European praying mantid (Mantis religiosa). 

Connecticut named the European praying mantid their official state insect in 1977. Though the species is not native to North America, it is well established in Connecticut.

08
of 50

Delaware

Lady beetle.
Lady beetle. Photo: Hamed Saber, Wikimedia Commons

Lady beetle (Family Coccinellidae).

At the suggest of students in the Milford High School District, the Delaware Legislature voted to designate the lady bug as their official state insect in 1974. The bill did not specify a species. The lady bug is, of course, actually a beetle.

09
of 50

Florida

None.

The Florida state website lists an official state butterfly, but legislators have apparently failed to name an official state insect. In 1972, students lobbied the legislature to designate the praying mantis as the Florida state insect. The Florida Senate passed the measure, but the House failed to muster enough votes to send the praying mantis to the Governor's desk for a signature.

 

10
of 50

Georgia

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

In 1975, the Georgia General Assembly designated the honeybee as the state's official insect, noting "if it were not for the cross-pollination activities of honeybees for over fifty different crops, we would soon have to live on cereals and nuts."

11
of 50

Hawaii

Kamehameha butterfly.
Kamehameha butterfly. Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea).

In Hawaii, they call it pulelehua, and the species is one of only two butterflies that are endemic to the Hawaiian islands. In 2009, students from Pearl Ridge Elementary School successfully lobbied for the Kamehameha butterfly's designation as their official state insect. The common name is an homage to the House of Kamehameha, the royal family that unified and ruled the Hawaiian Islands from 1810 to 1872. Unfortunately, the Kamehameha butterfly population appears to be in decline, and the Pulelehua Project has just been launched to enlist the help of citizen scientists in documenting sightings of the butterfly.

12
of 50

Idaho

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly. Photo: © Debbie Hadley, WILD Jersey

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

The Idaho legislature chose the monarch butterfly as the state's official insect in 1992. But if the children ran Idaho, the state symbol would have been the leaf-cutter bee long ago. Back in the 1970's, busloads of children from Paul, Idaho made repeated trips to their capital, Boise, to lobby for the leaf-cutter bee. In 1977, the Idaho House agreed and voted for the kids' nominee. But a State Senator who had once been a big time honey producer convinced his colleagues to strip the "leaf-cutter" bit from the bee's name. The whole matter died in committee.

13
of 50

Illinois

Monarch butterfly.
Monarch butterfly. Photo: © Debbie Hadley, WILD Jersey

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

Third graders from Dennis School in Decatur made it their mission to have the monarch butterfly names their official state insect in 1974. After their proposal passed the legislature, they watched Illinois Governor Daniel Walker sign the bill in 1975.

14
of 50

Indiana

None.

Although Indiana has not designated an official state insect yet, the entomologists at Purdue University hope to gain recognition for the Say's firefly (Pyractomena angulata). Indiana naturalist Thomas Say named the species in 1924. Some call Thomas Say the "father of American entomology."

15
of 50

Iowa

None.

So far, Iowa has failed to choose an official state insect. In 1979, thousands of children wrote to the legislature in support of making the ladybug Iowa's official insect mascot, but their efforts were unsuccessful. 

16
of 50

Kansas

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

In 1976, 2,000 Kansas schoolchildren wrote letters in support of making the honey bee their state insect. The language in the bill certainly gave the honey bee its due: "The honeybee is like all Kansans in that it is proud; only fights in defense of something it cherishes; is a friendly bundle of energy; is always helping others throughout its lifetime; is a strong, hard worker with limitless abilities; and is a mirror of virtue, triumph and glory."

17
of 50

Kentucky

None.

The Kentucky Legislature has named an official state butterfly, but not a state insect.

18
of 50

Louisiana

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

Recognizing its important to agriculture, the Louisiana Legislature declared the honey bee to be the official state insect in 1977.

19
of 50

Maine

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

In 1975, teacher Robert Towne gave his students a lesson in civics by encouraging them to lobby their state government to establish a state insect. The children argued successfully that the honey bee was due this honor for its role in pollinating Maine's blueberries.

20
of 50

Maryland

Baltimore checkerspot.
Baltimore checkerspot. Wikimedia Commons/ D. Gordon E. Robertson ( CC license)

Baltimore checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton).

This species was so named because its colors match the heraldic colors of the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert. It seemed an appropriate choice for Maryland's state insect in 1973, when the legislature made it official. Unfortunately, the species is now considered rare in Maryland, thanks to climate change and loss of breeding habitat.

21
of 50

Massachusetts

Ladybug.
Ladybug. Photo: Hamed Saber, Wikimedia Commons

Ladybug (Family Coccinellidae).

Although they didn't designate a species, the Massachusetts Legislature named the ladybug the official state insect in 1974. They did so at the urging of second graders from the Kennedy School in Franklin, MA, and that school also adopted the ladybug as its school mascot. The Massachusetts government website notes that the two-spotted lady beetle (Adalia bipunctata) is the most common species of ladybug in the Commonwealth.

22
of 50

Michigan

None.

Michigan has designated a state gem (Chlorastrolite), a state stone (Petoskey stone), and a state soil (Kalkaska sand), but no state insect. Shame on you, Michigan.

UPDATE: Keego Harbor resident Karen Meabrod, who runs a summer camp and raises monarch butterflies with her campers, has convinced the Michigan legislature to consider a bill designating Danaus plexippus as the official state insect. Stay tuned.

23
of 50

Minnesota

None.

Minnesota has an official state butterfly, but no state insect.

 

24
of 50

Mississippi

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

The Mississippi Legislature gave the honey bee its official props as their state insect in 1980.

25
of 50

Missouri

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

Missouri also chose the honey bee as their state insect. Then Governor John Ashcroft signed the bill making its designation official in 1985.

26
of 50

Montana

None.

Montana has a state butterfly, but no state insect.

27
of 50

Nebraska

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

Legislation passed in 1975 made the honey bee the official state insect of Nebraska. 

28
of 50

Nevada

Vivid dancer damselfly (Argia vivida).

Nevada was a late-comer to the state insect party, but they finally designated one in 2009. Two legislators, Joyce Woodhouse and Lynn Stewart, realized their state was one of just a handful that had yet to honor an invertebrate. They sponsored a contest for students to solicit ideas about which insect represent Nevada. Fourth graders from Beatty Elementary School in Las Vegas proposed the vivid dancer damselfly because it's found statewide and happens to be the state's official colors, silver and blue.

29
of 50

New Hampshire

Ladybug.
Ladybug. Photo: Hamed Saber, Wikimedia Commons

Ladybug (Family Coccinellidae).

Students at Broken Ground Elementary School in Concord petitioned their legislators to make the ladybug New Hampshire's state insect in 1977. Much to their surprise, the House waged quite a political war over the measure, first referring the issue to committee and then proposing the creation of a State Insect Selection Board to hold hearings on the choice of an insect. Fortunately, saner minds prevailed, and the measure did pass and become law in short order, with unanimous approval in the Senate.

30
of 50

New Jersey

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

In 1974, students from Sunnybrae School in Hamilton Township successfully lobbied the New Jersey Legislature to designate the honey bee as the state's official insect.

31
of 50

New Mexico

Tarantula hawk wasp (Pepsis formosa). 

Students from Edgewood, New Mexico couldn't think of a cooler insect to represent their state than the tarantula hawk wasp. These enormous wasps hunt tarantulas to feed to their young. In 1989, the New Mexico legislature agreed with the sixth graders, and designated the tarantula hawk wasp as the official state insect.

32
of 50

New York

9-spotted lady beetle.
9-spotted lady beetle. Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

9-spotted lady beetle (Coccinella novemnotata).

In 1980, fifth grader Kristina Savoca petitioned State Assemblyman Robert C. Wertz to make the ladybug New York's official insect. The Assembly passed the legislation, but the bill died in the Senate and several years passed with no action on the matter. Finally, in 1989, Wertz took the advice of Cornell University entomologists, and he proposed that the 9-spotted lady beetle be designated the state insect. The species has become rare in New York, where it was once common. A few sightings were reported to the Lost Ladybug Project in recent years.

33
of 50

North Carolina

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

A beekeeper named Brady W. Mullinax led the effort to make the honey bee North Carolina's state insect. In 1973, the North Carolina General Assembly voted to make it official.

34
of 50

North Dakota

Convergent lady beetle.
Convergent lady beetle. Russ Ottens, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Convergent lady beetle (Hippodamia convergens).

In 2009, students from Kenmare Elementary School wrote to their state legislators about establishing an official state insect. In 2011, they watched Governor Jack Dalrymple sign their proposal into law, and the convergent lady beetle became North Dakota's bug mascot.

35
of 50

Ohio

Ladybug.
Ladybug. Photo: Hamed Saber, Wikimedia Commons

Ladybug (Family Coccinellidae).

Ohio declared its love for the lady beetle back in 1975. The Ohio General Assembly's bill to designate the ladybug as the state insect noted that it "is symbolic of the people of Ohio—she is proud and friendly, bringing delight to millions of children when she alights on their hand or arm to display her multi-colored wings, and she is extremely industrious and hardy, able to live under the most adverse conditions and yet retain her beauty and charm, while at the same time being of inestimable value to nature."

36
of 50

Oklahoma

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

Oklahoma chose the honey bee in 1992, at the request of beekeepers. Senator Lewis Long tried to convince his fellow legislators to vote for the tick instead of the honey bee, but he failed to muster enough support and the bee prevailed. That's good, because apparently Senator Long didn't know that a tick is not an insect.

37
of 50

Oregon

Oregon swallowtail butterfly (Papilio oregonius).

Establishing a state insect in Oregon was not a quick process. Efforts to establish one began as early as 1967, but the Oregon swallowtail didn't prevail until 1979. It seems an appropriate choice, given its very limited distribution in Oregon and Washington. Supporters of the Oregon rain beetle were disappointed when the butterfly won, because they felt an insect suited for rainy weather was a better representative of their state.

38
of 50

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania firefly (Photuris pennsylvanicus).

In 1974, students from Highland Park Elementary School in Upper Darby succeeded in their 6-month campaign to make the firefly (Family Lampyridae) the state insect of Pennsylvania. The original law didn't name a species, a fact that didn't sit well with the Entomological Society of Pennsylvania. In 1988, the insect enthusiasts successfully lobbied to have the law amended, and the Pennsylvania firefly became the official species.

39
of 50

Rhode Island

None.

Attention, children of Rhode Island! Your state has not chosen an official insect. You have work to do.

40
of 50

South Carolina

Caroline mantid.
Caroline mantid. Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Carolina mantid (Stagmomantis carolina).

In 1988, South Carolina designated the Carolina mantid as the state insect, noting that the species is a "native, beneficial insect that is easily recognizable" and that "it provides a perfect specimen of living science for the school children of this State."

 

41
of 50

South Dakota

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

South Dakota has Scholastic Publishing to thank for their state insect. In 1978, third graders from Gregory Elementary School in Gregory, SD read a story about state insects in their Scholastic News Trails magazine. They were inspired to take action when they learned their home state had not yet adopted an official insect. When their proposal to designate the honey bee as South Dakota's insect came up for a vote in their state legislature, they were at the capitol to cheer its passing. The children were even featured in the News Trails magazine, which reported on their achievement in their "Doer's Club" column.

42
of 50

Tennessee

Ladybug.
Ladybug. Photo: Hamed Saber, Wikimedia Commons

Ladybug (Family Coccinellidae) and firefly (Family Lampyridae).

Tennessee really likes insects! They've adopted an official state butterfly, an official state agricultural insect, and not one, but two official state insects. In 1975, the legislature designated both the ladybug and the firefly as state insects, although it appears they didn't designate a species in either case. The Tennessee government website mentions the common eastern firefly (Photinus pyralls) and the 7-spotted lady beetle (Coccinella septempunctata) as species of note.

43
of 50

Texas

Monarch butterfly.
Monarch butterfly. Photo: © Debbie Hadley, WILD Jersey

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

The Texas Legislature recognized the monarch butterfly as the state's official insect by resolution in 1995. Representative Arlene Wohlgemuth introduced the bill after students in her district lobbied her on behalf of the iconic butterfly.

44
of 50

Utah

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

Fifth graders from Ridgecrest Elementary School in Salt Lake County took on the challenge of lobbying for a state insect. They convinced Senator Fred W. Finlinson to sponsor a bill naming the honey bee as their official insect mascot, and the legislation passed in 1983. Utah was first settled by Mormons, who called it the Provisional State of Deseret. Deseret is a term from the Book of Mormon that means "honey bee." Utah's official state emblem is the beehive.

45
of 50

Vermont

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

Barnard Central School students championed the honey bee at legislative hearings, arguing that it made sense to honor an insect that produces honey, a natural sweetener, similar to Vermont's beloved maple syrup. Governor Richard Snelling signed the bill that designated the honey bee as Vermont's state insect in 1978.

46
of 50

Virginia

Eastern tiger swallowtail.
Eastern tiger swallowtail. Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). 

The Commonwealth of Virginia waged an epic civil war over which insect should become the symbol of their state. In 1976, the issue erupted into a power struggle between the two legislative bodies, as they fought over conflicting bills to honor the praying mantis (preferred by the House) and the eastern tiger swallowtail (proposed by the Senate). Meanwhile, the Richmond Times-Dispatch made things worse by publishing an editorial mocking the legislature for wasting time on such an inconsequential matter, and proposing the gnat as state insect. The bicentennial battle ended in a stalemate. Finally, in 1991, the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly earned the elusive title of Virginia state insect, although the praying mantis enthusiasts tried unsuccessfully to derail the bill by tacking on an amendment.

47
of 50

Washington

Green darner.
Green darner. Flickr user Chuck Evans McEvan ( CC license)

Common green darner dragonfly (Anax junius).

Led by Crestwood Elementary School in Kent, students from over 100 school districts helped select the green darner dragonfly as Washington's state insect in 1997.

48
of 50

West Virginia

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

Some references incorrectly name the monarch butterfly as West Virginia's state insect. The monarch is actually the state butterfly, as designated by the West Virginia Legislature in 1995. Seven years later, in 2002, they named the honey bee the official state insect, noting its importance as a pollinator of many agricultural crops.

49
of 50

Wisconsin

Honey bee.
Honey bee. Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Honey bee (Apis mellifera).

The Wisconsin Legislature was lobbied vigorously to name the honey bee the state's favored insect, by both the third graders of Holy Family School in Marinette and by the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association. Although they briefly considering putting the matter up to a popular vote by schoolchildren across the state, in the end, the legislators honored the honey bee. Governor Martin Schreiber signed Chapter 326, the law that designated the honey bee as Wisconsin's state insect, in 1978.

50
of 50

Wyoming

None.

Wyoming has a state butterfly, but no state insect.

A Note on Sources for This List

The sources I used in compiling this list were extensive. Whenever possible, I read the legislation as it was written and passed. I also read news accounts from historic newspapers to determine the timeline of events and parties involved in designating a given state insect.