What Is the State Insect of Colorado? Origins, History, & FAQ
Colorado is a bustling state in the western United States, known for its magnificent Rocky Mountain scenery and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. Like any other state, Colorado has its own emblems to represent its heritage and its culture, including a state flower (the columbine), a state bird (the lark bunting), and a state insect.
You’re probably thinking, “What magnificent insect could possibly capture Colorado’s beauty, splendor, and heritage?” Well, Colorado’s state insect is the majestic Colorado hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus). A beautiful butterfly with sprawling blue wings and a crucial role in Colorado’s ecosystem. Keep reading to find out more about this insect.
Colorado’s State Insect
Following the Colorado Senate Bill 92-166, the state’s general assembly mandated Colorado, the 37th state, to officially declare a state insect. The Colorado hairstreak (Hypaurotis crysalus) is a beautiful and colorful little insect that is the perfect representation of Colorado.
Its beautiful iridescent wings are said to resemble the Colorado mountains in all their snowy glory. Its golden hair-like markings are a testament to the state’s natural beauty and abundance.
About the Colorado Hairstreak
The Colorado hairstreak is a small butterfly that grows to only about 25 mm in length. Its wings are black with iridescent blue and gold bands, giving it its shimmering appearance.
The butterfly is native to the Northern Southwest, mostly found within the hills and canyons at elevations of 6,500 and 7,500 feet. It primarily feeds on the leaves of the Gambel Oak and is completely dependent on the tree.
The Colorado hairstreak is a beautiful and striking butterfly with iridescent blue-green wings. Its markings are mostly golden or yellow, which gives it an almost golden aura when in flight. When fully grown, it measures about 25 mm in length, making it one of the smallest butterflies in Colorado.
Despite its size, the Colorado hairstreak is known to be quite a territorial butterfly, fiercely guarding its territory against other insects and animals. Its dependence on Gambel Oak also makes the insect vulnerable to environmental changes that could threaten its survival.
Like other butterflies, the Colorado hairstreak undergoes a complete metamorphosis as it develops from an egg to a larva and finally into an adult butterfly. The female lays her eggs directly on the leaves of Gambel Oak, where the larvae will feed until they are ready to pupate.
Once hatched, the Colorado hairstreak caterpillar will feed on the leaves of Gambel Oak and shed its skin several times as it grows. Once fully grown, it develops a hard case around its body before finally pupating and emerging as a beautiful adult butterfly several weeks later.
Diet and Habits
The Colorado hairstreak’s primary diet consists of the leaves of Gambel Oak, a deciduous oak tree native to the Colorado highlands. Because it spends much of its life feeding on this one type of tree, the insect is extremely susceptible to changes in its habitat and environment.
The butterflies live in colonies that make it easier to find a mate. Although lovely, the butterfly is also known to be very territorial, fiercely defending its territory against other insects and animals. It is a fast flier, often seen chasing off others trying to invade its home.
How Was It Decided?
In 1996, students of Wheeling Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado, began campaigning to make the Colorado hairstreak the state insect of Colorado. Their efforts were eventually successful, and in 1966, Coloradan officials officially recognized this beautiful butterfly as the state’s official insect.
Since then, Coloradans have continued to celebrate their state insect and all that it stands for. It’s a true testament to the state’s natural beauty and diversity and a symbol of Coloradan pride.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, an environmentalist, or simply someone who appreciates Coloradans’ nature and wildlife, you will agree that the Colorado hairstreak is a true symbol of all that makes this state so special. So next time you visit the great state of Colorado, be sure to stop and admire this beautiful butterfly in all its shimmering glory!
Featured Image Credit: Karuna Eberl, Shutterstock