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What Is the State Insect of Washington? How Was It Decided?

green darner dragonfly

Across America, each state has chosen a range of creatures and foliage to symbolize the area’s heritage and resources. Symbols include anything from inanimate objects to insects. If you live in Washington state, you might be curious about which insect was chosen as its symbol. Washington’s state insect is the common green darner dragonfly.

Green darner dragonflies are common sights in Washington and were chosen by a group of school children to be the state insect. Let us explain how it was chosen and share a few interesting facts about it.

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What Is the Green Darner Dragonfly?

female common green darner dragonfly perching on a purple flower
Image Credit: Paul Reeves Photography, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Anax junius drury
Other Names: Mosquito hawk, horse stinger, devil’s darning needles, Lord of June
Size: 3 inches long; wingspan 4–6 inches

There are more than 400 species of dragonfly across the U.S.A., but the green darner dragonfly is one of the most common. They were first recorded in 1773 by a man known as Drury. These days, green darner dragonflies are familiar sights in Washington and appear during the spring, summer, and fall. You’re most likely to find them around damp areas such as marshes and ponds.

They’re easy to recognize due to their size and the bright green coloring of their thorax. The color of their abdomen changes depending on sex. Mature males are bright blue and females — as well as juvenile males — have a subtler brown coloring.

With a 4–6-inch wingspan and a flight speed between 25 and 35 mph¹, these dragonflies are among the largest and fastest of the species. They’re also excellent hunters. The green darner dragonfly helps the environment by preying on other insects that are often considered pests, such as mosquitoes, hence their nickname, “mosquito hawk.” Their diet also includes butterflies, gnats, mayflies, moths, and smaller dragonfly species.

The green darner dragonfly and other darner dragonfly species earn their name from the shape of their body. When they were first being studied, the entomologists wanted to acknowledge how the bodies of these dragonflies looked similar to darning needles.

Why Is the Green Darner Dragonfly Washington’s State Insect?

Like with most of Washington’s state symbols, the green darner dragonfly was chosen by school children. The idea was originally presented to the Legislature by a group of students at Crestwood Elementary School in Kent.

While it was a small group of students who started the idea for the green darner dragonfly to become the state insect, more than 100 school districts across Washington took part in the decision. It was finalized in 1997, and the green darner dragonfly became the official state insect of Washington.

common green darner dragonfly
Image Credit: dvande, Shutterstock

Fun Facts About the Green Darner Dragonfly

It’s not a surprise that the green darner dragonfly is the state insect, as it’s such a familiar sight for many Washington residents. Their popularity isn’t the only thing that makes these insects so interesting, though; here are a few more fascinating facts that you might not know.

It’s Found in Several Countries Around the World

The green darner dragonfly is popular in Washington state, but these insects have a much wider distribution. Not only are they found across the U.S.A., including Alaska and Hawaii, but they’re also found across Canada, Panama, the West Indies, Tahiti, Japan, and China.

It Has Many Names

Popularity comes with many stories and nicknames. As one of the most easily spotted dragonflies around the world, the green darner dragonfly has several nicknames. Many aren’t used that often anymore, but they’re still important titles to remember.

Along with their nickname, “mosquito hawk,” due to their ability to capture and eat mosquitoes, green darner dragonflies are also known as, “devil’s darning needles.” They also have the name, “horse stinger,” despite not having a stinger.

The most impressive nickname that the green darner dragonfly possesses, however, is the “Lord of June.” They earned this name due to the translation of “Anax junius.” The Greek word, “anax,” translates to king, lord, or master. As the largest dragonfly species in Washington, this is one of the most fitting titles for the species.

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Conclusion

One of the most recognizable dragonfly species is the common green darner dragonfly. Widespread and recognized by their size and coloring, these insects are frequent sights in many places across the world.

Most children love the bright colors and flitting to-and-fro movement of the dragonfly’s flight path. That’s why school children from over 100 schools suggested the green darner dragonfly as the state insect for Washington. It became official in 1997.


Featured Image Credit: Ron Rowan Photography, Shutterstock

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