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Butterfly vs. Dragonfly: Competing bugs battle for state insect title

Michigan is one of only two states without an official insect; a House bill introduced this week would give the nod to the green darner dragonfly.
Credit: Pixabay
Competing bills would designate the monarch butterfly or the green darner dragonfly as Michigan's official insect

LANSING, Mich. — Move over monarch butterfly; a large and fast-moving dragonfly is also vying for designation as Michigan’s official state insect.

A bill introduced this week in Lansing would designate the green darner dragonfly as Michigan’s official insect.

Michigan is one of only two states without an official insect. The other is Iowa.

It certainly isn’t for a lack of trying. Lawmakers in previous years have rallied behind ladybugs and assorted butterflies.

State Rep. Sarah Lightner sponsored the bill as a "fun way to expose kids to the legislative process.''  A member of the 4-H Club in Springport put the bug in her ear, so to speak.

“The kids said ‘we don’t have a state insect’ and they came up with the dragonfly,’’ said Lightner, R-Springport.  “Multiple states have the butterfly, so that’s why we went with the dragonfly.’’

The monarch is the official insect in seven states, including Illinois and Minnesota. The dragonfly, she said, is a good fit for Michigan, given its preference for water.

“With as much water as we have, everyone sees dragonflies,’’ Lightner said. “We thought it would be kind of cool.’’

There is competition. A House bill introduced in April gives the nod to the monarch butterfly.

“By recognizing these beautiful little creatures, we can be more conscious of their function and contribution to our state,’’ said state Rep. Brenda Carter, D-Pontiac, whose bill designates the monarch – aka Danaus plexippus – as Michigan’s official insect.

The monarch, she said, helps cross-fertilize many plants, which is “vital to the success of the state’s agriculture and tourism industries.’’

But don’t discount the green darner dragonfly, which also answers to the name Anax junius. Legions of supporters marvel at its aerial agility and appetite for gnats, midges and mosquitoes.

Those are some of the attributes that helped elevate it to official insect status in Washington.

A group of school kids in 1997 successfully lobbied to get the green darner dragonfly recognized as the official insect in the evergreen state.

Michigan already has a state bird (robin), a state fish (brook trout), a state reptile (painted turtle) and a state fossil (mastodon), but no state insect.

And, apparently, no official state butterfly.  If the green darner dragonfly gets the nod as Michigan’s state insect, the Monarch might be a viable candidate as Michigan’s official state butterfly.

There would be competition: Bills have already been introduced this year backing the black swallowtail butterfly and the Karner blue butterfly as Michigan's official state butterfly.