You might know your state bird, mammal, or crustacean*, but are you living in one of the 29 states that has selected an official state butterfly? I do, but I’ve never seen a “zebra longwing butterfly” before in my life.
The zebra longwing butterfly represents The Sunshine State, but their natural range only extends into the Florida panhandle, so I’m certain that most other Floridians have no idea that this bug exists. Ah, well…
Next we have the monarch butterfly, the migratory orange and black insect that is a common sight in all of the lower 48. That also explains why it was picked to represent West Virginia, Alabama, Vermont, Idaho, Texas, Illinois, and Minnesota. I want to give Kentucky bonus points for choosing the viceroy butterfly because viceroys look just like monarchs, but I just think that Kentuckians just wanted to stand out from the crowd.
Americans seem to appreciate butterflies that thrive over large portions of the nation, as Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Delaware all share the big and yellow eastern tiger swallowtail as their state butterfly. Note that Arizona and Oregon went with a pair of similar-looking swallowtail butterflies, the two-tailed swallowtail and Oregon swallowtail, respectively.
Judging from the previous bunch of states, you’d think that all swallowtails are yellow and black bugs, but Mississippi took the midnight blue-black spicebush swallowtail, Oklahoma voted for the black swallowtail, Tennessee decided on the zebra swallowtail.
The remaining states went out of the way to pick unique butterfly species to represent themselves, and my personal favorite is Wyoming’s dusty green Sheridan’s hairstreak butterfly. When I think of butterflies, I imagine warm reds, yellows, and oranges, so their moss-colored wings really set them apart; I wish Florida had green butterflies too!
As for the best of the rest, New York claimed the white admiral butterfly, New Mexico has the fairly rare brown and green Sandia hairstreak butterfly, New Hampshire represents themselves with the fuzzy Karner blue butterfly, Maryland owns the stained glass-like Baltimore checkerspot butterfly, Montana took the relatively huge mourning cloak butterfly, Hawaii picked the Kamehameha butterfly (named after the Royal Family of Kamehameha, which stretched from 1795 to 1893), Colorado naturally elected the aptly-named dark purple Colorado hairstreak butterfly, and Arkansas went for the Diana fritillary butterfly, a species with orange males and blue females.
Californians started the historical trend of state butterflies when the California dogface butterfly was taken as the first-ever state butterfly in 1972.
If you live in one of the 21 remaining states with governments that have shirked their duty to represent you with a pretty nectar-sucker that might live for a month, start calling your government representatives to suggest your favorite local butterflies. It’s not like they have anything better to do, right?
*Yes, there are currently three U.S. states that have a state crustacean, and I still can’t believe that Maine’s iconic lobsters haven’t received this honor yet. Talk about a missed opportunity!