Lawmakers are considering new state recognition for something that can both sting and sweeten our lives. Legislation that would name the honeybee the “official state insect of Iowa” is ready for debate in a House committee.
“It’s generating a lot of buzz.” quips Representative John Wills of Spirit Lake, a co-sponsor of the move. “The honeybee, it’s not even really a native species to Iowa or the United States…but it plays such a vital role and such an important role in our economy in the state and everything that we do, especially with agriculture, that it’s a good symbol.”
Wills says honeybees play a key role in our food supply and the work of these flying pollinators is worth 92 million dollars to the state’s economy.
“Everything that’s on a pizza is there because of pollinators,” Wills says. “And so, without pollinators, we couldn’t have pizza.”
There are about 1500 beekeepers in Iowa. Three million pounds of honey is produced in Iowa each year. This proposal to designate the honeybee as the official state insect is far from a done deal. It’s only cleared the first of at least six hurdles in the legislative process. The channel catfish never got that far in previous years when a group of legislators tried to name it the official state fish. And Wills failed two years ago to get his fellow lawmakers to designate an official state soil.
“I think it is important to have a few, specific, important things that are what our state recognizes,” Wills says.
There’s another piece of legislation floating around the House that would name the “regal fritillary” as the official state butterfly. It can be found in tall prairie grass and wetlands, but has become rare. Long ago, state officials designated the oak as the official state tree, the goldfinch as the official state bird and the geode is the official state rock. The official state flower is the wild rose.