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What Is the State Insect of Florida? Facts & Symbolism

Zebra Longwing Butterfly

Most states have a state bird or state animal that is associated with the state. But what about a state insect? A state insect might not sound like the most appealing thing, but surprisingly, 48 of the 50 states in the United States have designated an official state insect, including the state of Florida. But there is a catch.

Florida’s state butterfly is the zebra longwing butterfly. Technically, Florida does not have an official state insect. It has an official state butterfly, and butterflies are insects, but the designation is not for state insects. For a state that prides itself on being weird and even has an official state soil and official state play, it is a little odd that Florida has no officially recognized state insect.

In lieu of an official state insect Florida simply has one state butterfly. The zebra longwing butterfly is an excellent choice for Florida because it lives in the iconic Everglades National Park, is a tropical insect, and has a beautiful appearance. These reasons were enough for the state legislature to designate the zebra longwing Florida’s official state insect.

How was the state insect of Florida decided? The zebra longwing butterfly was nearly beaten out by another iconic insect twenty years before the zebra longwing started its official tenure.

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How the Zebra Longwing Was Chosen

In 1972, Florida students petitioned the state legislature to make the praying mantis the official insect of the state of Florida. The measure passed the state senate, but it never passed the state house. That left the bill hanging in limbo, and it never passed. If it had passed, Florida’s official state insect would be the praying mantis, and the state butterfly would be the zebra longwing butterfly. Since the bill, and no subsequent bills, never passed, the illustrious position of the Florida state insect remains vacant.

The zebra longwing butterfly was designated the state’s official butterfly in 1996. The designation passed in a bill that sailed through the House and Senate before being signed into law. When the bill passed it codified the official state butterfly into law. Normally, the state symbols are chosen by important organizations or school children but in this case, there is no information about who lobbied for the zebra longwing to become the state butterfly. It could have been an organic process chosen from within the state congress itself.

Without an official state insect on the books, the zebra longwing butterfly doubles as the official state butterfly and the de facto state insect since butterflies are insects.

Zebra Longwing
Image By: Pixabay

Zebra Longwing Butterfly Fast Facts

Scientific Name: Heliconius charitonius
Size: Medium
Habitat: Thick thickets, hardwood throngs, and certain residential gardens.
Location: Throughout the state, especially Everglades National Park
Appearance: Black body with black wings that feature yellow or white stripes.

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Technically, Florida does not have an official state insect. Florida has an official state butterfly and since butterflies are insects many people consider the state butterfly to double as the state insect. The state butterfly of Florida is the zebra longwing butterfly. It is prized for its striking appearance and preferred home in the Florida Everglades.

Featured Image Credit: vadim-lu, Pexels

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