House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

What is the State Insect of Tennessee? How Was It Decided?

Ladybug in leaf

Tennessee has several state insects. The state started with two insects but it has added even more over the last few years. Therefore, there are now four in total.

Let’s look at each insect in turn, and when each was decided on.

divider 4 Firefly

Image By: FranciscoJavierCoradoR, Pixabay

The first official state insect was decided in 1975 as the firefly. This insect is well-known and very common in the state. However, there are several types of fireflies, with only a few existing in Tennessee. The most popular species in Tennessee is the Photinus pyralls.

These insects produce a special light from organs at the end of their torsos. They are relatively small, but this light makes them easy to notice. Most of these species produce rhythmic flashing, which helps signal that the males are ready to breed. Different species produce different rhythms, which helps the species find other members of their species.

The light signals are also thought to work as warnings to predators. These bugs are thought to taste bad compared to other bugs so this light prevents them from getting eaten, too.

You can find these insects across many different terrains. For instance, you can find them in wet, wooded areas, which are common in Tennessee. You can also find them as glow larvae before they turn into adults. These are sometimes known as glowworms.

These bugs have been rather popular across many cultures. They are appreciated across the world, as they are common in many different climates.


Closeup photo of ladybug on leaf
Image Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay

The ladybug is also a well-known species in Tennessee and is another state insect of Tennessee. These bugs are small and bright orange. They have four black spots on their back. Several other species resemble ladybugs, though they often have different spots.

This species only lives for about 4 weeks. The larvae pass through four different growth stages, where it feeds on insects and insect eggs. This bug is widespread in Tennessee and easy to recognize. These reasons are likely why it got chosen as the state insect.

There are many types of ladybugs. They are often considered beneficial insects, as they consume aphids and similar insects. Therefore, they can be useful for protecting your garden from aphids and similar insects. They often lay their eggs near aphid colonies to ensure their eggs have the proper food source.


big male drone honeybee
Image Credit: Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova, Shutterstock

The honeybee is an agricultural insect named one of the state insects in 1990. This is a social animal that isn’t super common in Tennessee. However, it is vital for their agricultural sphere. They produce honey and help pollinate many of the crops in Tennessee, which is likely why they were chosen as one of the state’s insects.

These insects may not be one of the most plentiful, but they are one of the most important. They are one of the only insects purchased, raised, and moved solely for pollination.

Bees are considered to be extremely helpful for the environment as they pollinate much of the food that humans eat. They are spread naturally through Africa and Eurasia. However, they were likely spread with the help of humans, who domesticated them early on. For instance, they were introduced to Australia in the 19th century.

Honeybees are similar to other bees. However, they produce large amounts of honey and have large colony sizes. Therefore, they are often foraging targets for a wide range of species. For this reason, they tend to be a bit fragile compared to other species, as they are extremely prone to be raided.

Currently, there are only eight surviving species but there were more species historically. Many of them have gone extinct.

On top of their honey, their wax is often utilized for candles, lip balms, and cosmetics.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly on a pink flower
Image Credit: PxHere

This butterfly is the state butterfly of Tennessee and is extremely beautiful. It has black and white stripes along much of its body. The distinctive stripes on their wings are why it is named after the zebra. It also has blue and red spots on its lower back.

These states are common in Tennessee, but they are also widespread throughout much of the United States. Therefore, they are not uncommon. This butterfly was chosen in 1995 as the state butterfly by students from Gallatin in Tennessee because it lays its eggs on a southern favorite plant—the Pawpaw. The Zebra Swallowtail caterpillars only feed on this plant.

Since it feeds almost exclusively on the Pawpaw, it is rarely found very far from these trees.

divider 4 Final Thoughts

Like many states, Tennessee has several state insects. These were decided at different times, with more being added over time. Now, the state has four different insects that are considered state insects and even more may be added in the future.

Featured Image Credit: xanatos1000, Pixabay


Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools