Discover the Official Arkansas State Insect

Bee, Black Background, Pollination, Animal, Animal Themes
© iStock.com/Jan Rozehnal

Written by Kirstin Harrington

Updated: September 8, 2023

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Arkansas — nicknamed “The Natural State,” or historically, “The Land of Opportunity” — has some of the most breathtaking and amazing areas to explore. Arkansas is a southern state bordering the Mississippi River that is home to a diverse population.

Despite its modest beauty, which is rarely highlighted, Arkansas has some truly stunning scenery. Although there are many animals to see there, the official Arkansas state insect is the European honey bee! Below, we’re going to talk all about this fuzzy little creature and why the Natural State chose it for representation!

The introduction of Africanized honey bees, also known as “killer bees,” has complicated Arkansas’s connection with its state insect.

The History Behind Choosing a State Insect

Arkansas General Assembly’s Act 49 made the honey bee the official insect of the state on February 1st, 1973. The legislation, which Jackson County Representative Albert Collier proposed, noted the significance of the bee in agricultural pollination. It focused more, though, on the bee’s values of perseverance, hard labor, care for home protection, and production. This vigilant and eager worker is a model citizen of the state of Arkansas, according to Act 49.

Arkansas chose the honey bee (Apis mellifera) as its state emblem, joining 15 other states that have done the same. The honey bee is paired with butterflies and dragonflies, among other “ornamental” insects, in several states, including Oklahoma and Tennessee.

For a long time, Arkansas was a considerable producer of honey, much of which was packaged and sold by regional apiaries for domestic use. Arkansas was the eighth-ranked honey-producing state in 2001, a year when honey sale prices temporarily reached a high. 

Arkansas had dropped to 18th place in 2004 with 2.28 million pounds produced. This pattern represented a drop in both the quantity and quality of generating colonies. According to the Arkansas State Plant Board, honeybee colonies handle around 80% of all natural bee-borne pollination, which is necessary for one-third of food crops. 

Some apiaries have been put out of business due to a decline in market pricing, and other colonies have vanished due to natural selection.

Creating a Hybrid

africanized bee

The first permanent colonies of Africanized bees made their way to the U.S. in 1990.

©Philip Marsden/Shutterstock.com

The introduction of Africanized honey bees, also known as “killer bees,” has further complicated Arkansas’s connection with its state insect. These bees, which were created in the 1950s by Brazilian apiarists, are crosses between the common European honeybee and particular southern African strains. 

The outcome was a bee that generated a significant amount of honey in hot settings but also had stronger protective instincts. The hybrid bees, which were accidentally released into the wild, traveled through South and Central America in the 1970s and 1980s before making their way to the United States in 1990.

Africanized bee colonies had been developed by June 2005 in a number of Arkansas-bordering counties in Oklahoma; the following month, multiple colonies were discovered in Miller and Lafayette counties, with solitary swarms recorded in three other counties. 

Education initiatives have been implemented around the state as a result of the Arkansas State Plant Board’s quick action in collaboration with the Arkansas Africanized Honey Bee Action Committee. 

The ability to eliminate colonies and swarms has been granted to pest management specialists; however, because Africanized bees cannot be reliably distinguished from “normal” European honeybees except by DNA analysis or observable behavior, this strategy may unintentionally wipe out populations of the latter.

Identifying the European Honey Bee

European honey bee females have notably smaller eyes than their male counterparts.

©Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock.com

The European honey bee can reach a length of 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch. It is normally brown or blackish with yellow streaks on its belly and has two pairs of wings. The largest bees are queen bees or fertile females. 

Male drones are medium-sized, robust, and have noticeably bigger eyes than their female counterparts. Small, sterile female worker bees have sharp stingers and unique hind legs that serve as pollen baskets.

What Do European Honey Bees Eat?

What Do Bees Eat image
Bees eat either pollen, nectar, or royal jelly, depending on the role the bee plays in its hive.

Adult bees consume honey, which is a form of concentrated nectar, as well as pollen and nectar that worker bees gather from flowering plants. Honey, nectar, and a jelly-like substance that secretes from the bodies of worker bees are consumed by young larval bees.

Whether a female will develop into either a queen or worker bee depends on the jelly. Bees will also consume melons or the fluids of insects that depend on sap, such as aphids. They have also been reported to invade the hives of other colonies in search of food.

Life Cycle of European Honey Bees

In the springtime and summer, mating happens close to bee colonies. The queen bee, the sole female in the colony competent in procreation, will fly around in hives, both her own and others, in droves. She will mate mid-flight and draw drones to her with her pheromones. 

The drones will drop from the sky and perish shortly after mating. Fertilized eggs become female bees, whereas unfertilized eggs become male bees. Eggs turn into larvae around two to three days once they’ve been laid, and worker bees take care of them. 

Female bees can transform into worker bees or queen bees while in the larval stage if they are given royal jelly. Depending on the sex, larvae mature into adult bees for about 15 to 24 days. Although queens can live up to five years old, worker and drone bees typically have lifespans of a couple of weeks to multiple months.


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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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