Oklahoma State Insect
European Honeybee (common name)
Apis mellifera (scientific name)
Honeybees are one of the most common insects in the world. They are extremely important in agriculture for their ability to pollinate plants and also contribute to the economy in terms of honey and beeswax. The European honeybee was named the state insect of Kansas (in 1976), Louisiana (1977), Maine (1975), Missouri (1985), Nebraska (1975), New Jersey (1974), Utah (1983), Oklahoma (1992), and Wisconsin (1977).
Honeybees have compound eyes comprised of hundreds of smaller eyes called ommatidia. Worker bees are 0.37-0.62 inches (9-18 mm) in length and have a pollen basket on their hind legs, four pairs of beeswax-secreting glands on their abdomen, and an extra stomach for storing nectar and honey. Only females have stingers that they use when threatened. Worker stingers can be used only once, unlike those of queen bees. Worker bees are golden brown and black in color with a black head and patches of pale orange. Their abdomens and wings are covered with yellow bands and their entire bodies are covered with tiny hairs. Queen bees are much larger (0.75 inches or 20mm) than other bees and have a longer abdomen.
Larvae: Eggs hatch after three days into a white larva. After another six days they become pupae.
The queen bee lives as long as five years. Drones live for eight weeks. Worker bees born in summer live for around 6 weeks, and those born during the fall live until the next spring.
Range: Honeybees are found all over the world except Antarctica.
Flight period: Most active during spring and summer.
Conservation status: Least concern
Honeybees are very social in nature and exist in a very structured social system that has three specialized groups: the queens, the drones, and the workers. Each of these "castes" has their own function. The queen’s main function is to lay eggs, and she can lay more than 1,500 eggs per day. Drones exist only to mate with the queen bee and either die or are driven away at the end of the season. Worker bees take care of building and maintaining the hive and honey comb and also take care of the queen and defend the hive.
Older workers, also known as field bees, gather nectar, water, pollen and plant resins that are used to build hives. Once the bee colony gets a new queen, it subdivides in a process known as "swarming," during which the old queen moves out with half of the bees to build a new colony. Honeybees are not usually aggressive, but they react when their hive is under attack. Eggs have to be incubated at 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius), and the bees maintain this temperature by depositing water and fanning the hive with their wings during hot weather. In winter, they cluster close together to generate heat.
Adults: Flower nectar and pollen form the main diet for honeybees.
Larvae: Young queen bees are fed a special jelly that is made using glands in the heads of the worker bees. Only bees that are fed this special "royal jelly" develop into queens.
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Oklahoma State Butterfly
Black Swallowtail Butterfly (common name)
Papilio polyxenesis (scientific name)
The black swallowtail is one of North America’s largest and most beautiful butterflies. It is black with rows of yellow dots along the outer edges of the wings, larger blue dots at the ends of its scalloped-edged hind wings. The hind wings also have black and orange "eye spots" and long tails. There are several related butterflies with which the black swallowtail is often confused: the western black swallowtail, the short-tailed black swallowtail, the spicebush swallowtail, the pipevine swallowtail, the Ozark swallowtail, the Kahli swallowtail, and the anise swallowtail. The black swallowtail was designated the state insect of Oklahoma in 1996.
Wingspan: 3 1/4–4 1/4 in (8–11 cm)
Larvae: The caterpillar molts several times, changing appearance each time. During the last few stages of growth, it reaches 2 inches (.8 cm) in length and appears smooth, green, and marked with black bands and yellowish orange spots.
Adult: Two weeks
Open areas including meadows, agricultural fields, marshes, and deserts.
Range: North America east of the Rocky Mountains, Mexico, Central America, and the northern tip of South America. Also present in Australia.
Flight period: Up to three flights depending on latitude. From April to October in the northern range and year-round in the southern range.
Conservation Status: Least concern
Flies low along the ground, drifting, and stalling. When threatened it flies quickly in a direct path away from the threat. The female lays pale, spherical eggs on the leaves of host plants, which hatch in a week, spend two weeks as caterpillars, 10 days as chrysalis, and two weeks as adults. If the larva enters the pupa stage in late autumn it will spend months in this stage and emerge in the spring.
Adults: Flower nectar from red clovers, milkweeds, and thistles.
Larva: Caterpillars feed on parsley, dill, fennel, and other members of the carrot family.
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