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What Is the State Insect of Hawaii? Origin & Facts

Kamehameha Butterfly

Even beautiful places considered to be paradise, like Hawaii, have insects. Fortunately, the wonders of the Hawaiian landscapes make dealing with bugs tolerable. Of all the insects living in Hawaii, the state insect is thought to be the most luxurious and beautiful by many people: the Kamehameha butterfly. Here is what you should know about this stunning butterfly and how it became the state insect of Hawaii.

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How the Kamehameha Butterfly Became the State Insect of Hawaii

The Kamehameha butterfly is endemic to Hawaii and was originally named to honor the royal Kamehameha family that was responsible for uniting the tribes on all the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1800s. The butterfly became the state insect of Hawaii in 2009, when a group of fifth graders in the state’s Gifted and Talented program proposed the butterfly to multiple legislators. The butterflies are called Pulelehua in Hawaiian, which means something similar to a floating flower.

Kamehameha butterfly Hawaii state insect
Image By: Virginia Momirovic

The Kamehameha Butterfly’s Appearance

This beautiful butterfly has a wingspan of about 2.5 inches, making them larger than many other butterfly species that are found living in Hawaii. Their wings are black and orange, with well-spaced markings that are typically white in color. They look similar to the Monarch butterfly, which many people confuse them for.

Where the Kamehameha Butterfly Likes to Live

Kamehameha butterflies are found living in the upland areas of Hawaii, where the woodlands are thick and humid. However, they’re sometimes spotted in lowland areas closer to sea level. Unfortunately, sightings are rare throughout all the Hawaiian Islands, which has led scientists to believe that they may be declining in numbers, if not facing extinction altogether. The University of Hawaii put together a program called the Pulelehua Project that is designed to figure out just how many Kamehameha butterflies are living in Hawaii and where.

Why Kamehameha Butterflies Are Such a Rare Sight

The destruction of natural food resources for the Kamehameha butterfly is thought to play a big factor in why they’re such a rare sight in Hawaii. Not only have humans done their fair share of destroying land and food sources, but animals like rats that have been introduced to the state also tend to cause havoc for the sustainable landscape that Kamehameha butterflies rely on to thrive. The areas that are least touched by humans are the areas most likely to support this butterfly, which is why most people never see one while on vacation or living in developed areas.

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In Conclusion

The Kamehameha butterfly is a gorgeous insect that you must be lucky to spot when spending time in the state of Hawaii. Thanks to a group of fifth graders, many people in the state learned about this butterfly and made it a priority to find out more about how the insect can be supported in a way that enables them to thrive.

Featured Image Credit: D.J.E, Shutterstock


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