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What Is the State Insect of Oklahoma? History, Facts, & Importance

honeybee

State symbols are put in place to represent cultural history and to recognize the unique treasures of each state in the nation. Oklahoma is a state that is well known for its Native American history, natural beauty, and what some would call “cowboy culture.”

The state of Oklahoma is represented most popularly by the mighty bison, which was named the state animal back in 1972. There are plenty of other noteworthy symbols of the Sooner State, too, including the honeybee, which was named the official state insect in the early 90s.

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How the Honeybee Became the State Insect of Oklahoma

close up of a honeybee
Image Credit: 12019, Pixabay

The honeybee was officially adopted as Oklahoma’s state insect on May 14, 1992. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society¹, it was quoted that “the honeybee is critical to crop pollination and plays a vital role in our varied and plentiful food supply,” which ultimately led to the decision.

Another insect was adopted as an official state symbol but within its own category. The Black Swallowtail was named the official state butterfly in 1996.

In addition to Oklahoma, the honeybee is recognized as the official state insect in sixteen other states, most of those being heavy in agriculture. This is primarily because honeybees play such a vital role in agricultural production.

On top of being the official state insect of so many states in the nation, they are also considered Tennessee’s official state agricultural insect and Texas’s official state pollinator.

Here’s a look at the states that recognize the honeybee as the official state insect:
  • Arkansas (1973)
  • Georgia (1975)
  • Kansas (1976)
  • Kentucky (2010)
  • Louisiana (1977)
  • Maine (1975)
  • Mississippi (1980)
  • Missouri (1985)
  • Nebraska (1975)
  • New Jersey (1974)
  • North Carolina (1973)
  • South Dakota (1978)
  • Tennessee (1990)
  • Utah (1983)
  • Vermont (1978)
  • West Virginia (2002)
  • Wisconsin (1977)

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The Honeybee

Species: Apis mellifera
Size: 9-20mm
Diet: Nectar, pollen

There are over 20,000 known species of bees in the world, but only 5% of them are social insects. Honeybees are undoubtedly one of the most well-known bees on the planet. Interestingly, they are not native to North America but were imported from Europe during the 17th century to produce honey, wax, and pollinate crops.

It is believed they first arrived in the United States around 1622 when European settlers brought the bees to the east coast. It took more than 200 years for the bees to make it to the west coast, landing in California in 1853.

Appearance

Honeybees have thick, oval-shaped bodies covered in branched and unbranched hairs, which work for both sensory and pollen removal. They are dark brown to almost black in color with yellow stripes. They have antennae, wings, and six legs, as seen in all adult insects.

It’s hard for some to tell the difference between a honeybee and other species of bees and wasps. The telltale difference between the honeybee and these other types is the look at the shape of the thorax and abdomen. Honeybees have a distinct, barrel shape and do not have a thin midsection between the thorax and abdomen, which is seen in other similar insects.

honeybee on a flower
Image Credit: MelaniMarfeld, Pixabay

Habitat and Behavior

Honeybees are adaptable insects that thrive in a variety of natural habitats as well as domesticated environments. They are commonly seen in gardens, orchards, meadows, forests, and any other areas that are rich in flowering plants.

Honeybee colonies will construct their hives in cavities of hollow trees and logs but will also use any human structures that can support the hive. Colonies typically house anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 bees but domesticated commercial hives typically house no more than 20,000.


The Diet of a Honeybee

Worker honeybees will collect pollen and nectar from various flowering plants in the area. They collect as much as they can store in their crop, or honey sack then returns to the hive.

Once they are back in the hive, they will regurgitate the nectar and pass it along to others within the colony, ultimately turning it into honey. The honey is stored in cells within the hive and is used to maintain the colony and feed larvae.

honeybee on a flower
Image Credit: Erik_Karits, Pixabay

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a honeybee consists of four stages: the egg stage, the larva stage, the pupal stage, and the adult stage. The length of the life cycle can vary among different honeybees. These bees are broken down into three categories: queen, worker, and drone.

The queen bee will lay from 2,000 to 3,000 eggs per day within the cells in the hive. The fertilized eggs will develop into female honeybees, or worker bees, and the unfertilized eggs will become male honeybees or drones. The differences between the queen, workers, and drones take place during the larva stage.

Once a honeybee reaches the pupa stage it will have developed wings, eyes, legs, and small hairs. At this point, they will appear to look much like adult bees. Once the pupa fully matures, they enter the adult stage and will chew their way out of the cell.

The life cycle from egg to adult takes about 16 days for queen bees, and 18 to 22 days for worker bees and drones will take the longest at about 24 days. Once they reach maturity, queen bees can live from 1 to 2 years, worker bees last 15 to 38 days¹ during summer or up to 200 during winter, and drones live approximately 55 days or less.

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The Importance of Honeybees in Agriculture

Pollination plays a vital role in the reproduction of hundreds of thousands of flowering plants. These plants rely on the transfer of pollen to properly reproduce, and pollination can happen through wind, precipitation, birds, bats, and a variety of insects including honeybees.

Honeybees play such a vital role in agriculture that the financial agricultural benefit¹ is estimated at 10 to 20 times the value of honey and beeswax. Their work as pollinators goes unmatched, accounting for up to 15 billion dollars in added crop value.

honeybee on a flower
Image Credit: simisi1, Pixabay

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Conclusion

The honeybee became the official state insect of Oklahoma on May 14, 1992, due to the important role that these insects play in the state’s agricultural production. These incredible insects are so important to agriculture throughout the entire nation that they have been named the state insect in many U.S states.


Featured Image Credit: francok35, Pixabay

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