Monday, February 1, 2016

What should be Michigan's Official State Insect?

If you know me personally or if you have read this blog for any amount of time you probably realize that I am a big fan of the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

My wife and I collect caterpillars to raise to adulthood and then tag them as part of the Monarch Watch tagging program.

Monarch caterpillars and chrysalises

A tagged Monarch at the Saginaw Chippewa Academy (photo by Shara LeValley)

We participate in an annual Monarch Butterfly Celebration at the Ziibiwing Center in Mt. Pleasant.

At the 2011 Monarch Butterfly Celebration (photo by Shara LeValley)

I have even helped create five gardens that are certified as Monarch Waystations:  our home garden, Saginaw Chippewa Academy, Winn Elementary, Morey Public School Academy, and the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum.

Native Pollinator Garden at the Saginaw Chippewa Academy

Recently I learned of a movement to make the Monarch Butterfly the official insect of the State of Michigan.  Michigan is one of only three states without an official insect.

It may be a surprise, but I am opposed to this proposition.


There are seven other states that have the Monarch as their official insect or butterfly.  Although I love the Monarch and look forward to them every year, I would rather Michigan pick something unique.

I also think that if Michigan is to have an official insect that it should be something that resides in the state year round and not just for 4-5 months of the year.

What do I think should be the Official Insect of Michigan?

I would suggest the Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens).  No state has the Common Eastern Bumblebee as its official insects - seventeen states have the European Honeybee (a non-native species) as their state insect.

Why would the Common Eastern Bumblebee make a suitable state insect?  For starters it is a year-round resident of the state.  Right now young bumblebee queens are hibernating, just waiting for spring to emerge and begin new colonies.  Second, the bumblebee is an incredible pollinator.  It is probably the number one pollinator of many of our native wildflower species.  It is also an important pollinator for many fruit and vegetable species that are grown in Michigan.  Finally, like the monarch butterfly, the bumblebee is suffering from a population decline, caused mainly by habitat loss.  Unfortunately the decline in many native bee species is not getting the same press coverage as the monarch.  If the monarch disappeared from the state it would be a horrible sad loss of a charismatic species, but if the bumblebee disappeared it would be catastrophic.

Common Eastern Bumblebee worker on an aster flower

What do you think?  I want to know.

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