Discover the Official Utah State Insect

Written by Oak Simmons
Published: May 25, 2023
© Joe Guetzloff/
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Utah is a state in the Mountain West region of the United States. It shares a border with Colorado to the east, Wyoming to the northeast, Idaho to the north, Nevada to the west, and Arizona to the south. Utah was admitted into the union in 1896, making it the 45th state. It has two unofficial nicknames: “The Mormon State” and “Deseret.” Utah’s official nickname is “The Beehive State,” which hints at the state’s official insect.

Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, is one of the most famous and thrilling hikes in the national park system.
Angels Landing in Zion National Park is one of Utah’s amazing geographic features.

©Steve Cukrov/

Utah has incredible geographic and ecological diversity. The state is home to three distinct geological regions: the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Due to its unique location, Utah features vast deserts, pine forests, and of course, the Great Salt Lake. As is the case in many western and southwestern states, the federal government owns much of the land in Utah. In fact, over 70 percent of the land in Utah is owned by the federal government. Interestingly, Utah is the only state where every county has some national forest land.

The Official Utah State Insect

Utah’s official nickname and official state insect both come from the state’s history of Mormon settlers. Brigham Young, who led the first Mormon settlers to Utah in the 1840s, first called the territory “Deseret.” According to the Book of Mormon, “Deseret” is an ancient word for honey bees. The flag of Utah features a beehive, which symbolizes industriousness and self-reliance. In 1959, Utah’s official nickname became The Beehive State. Additionally, in 1959, its official motto became “Industry,” which is a reference to the communal work of bees. From the state’s nickname and motto comes its official insect. The official Utah state insect is the western honey bee (Apis mellifera). The honey bee is one of Utah’s five official state animals.


The Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Bee, Black Background, Pollination, Animal, Animal Themes
The western honey bee is the official state insect of Utah.

© Rozehnal

Western honey bees (Apis mellifera) are the most common species of honey bees (Apis genus). These amazing insects live on every continent except Antarctica and are native to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. European colonists brought western honey bees to North America in the 1600s. Honey bees were one of the first insects that humans domesticated. Beekeeping is one of the oldest forms of animal husbandry and is a widespread industry today. To illustrate, the United States produced 126 million pounds of honey in 2021.

Honey bees and their hives symbolized industriousness and self-reliance to the early Mormon settlers of Utah. This symbolism is due to bees’ large, highly structured colonies and their honey production. During summer, a healthy hive population averages from 40,000 to 80,000 individuals. Honey bees have a social caste system where individuals fulfill specific roles in their hive. Queen bees are the only fertile females, and lay eggs for the hive. Worker bees are infertile females that collect pollen for honey production. Lastly, drone bees are males which fertilize the queen.

Honey Bees in Utah

The Utah state flag waving along with the national flag of the United States of America. Utah is a state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States
The official Utah state flag features a honey bee hive.


Western honey bees are one of over 900 species of bees in Utah. The beekeeping industry began in Utah around the 1850s. Settlers brought these insects to Utah in the hopes of producing a sweetener. At the time, most Americans used sugar grown in the American south. However, sugar is not able to grow in the desert climate of Utah. Settlers began to keep bees in order to produce honey. Bees were also useful to early settlers for beeswax, which was used to make candles. Brigham Young was the first settler in Utah documented to have bee colonies. Ever since, beekeeping has grown in popularity in Utah, ultimately becoming the huge industry it is today.

Utah is currently the 24th state in terms of honey production. Utah produces many different varieties of honey including clover honey, wildflower honey, and alfalfa honey. Most beekeepers in Utah today keep Italian honey bees (Apis mellifera ligustica), which are a subspecies of western honey bees. Italian honey bees are selected because they are more docile and easier to keep. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food regulates beekeeping, and beekeepers are required to register with the agency. Beekeeping is a valuable industry in the state. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, honey production rose 49 percent from 2019 to 2020. In 2019, the state produced 952 thousand pounds of honey. It’s no wonder why the western honey bee is Utah’s official state insect!

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Salt Lake City, Utah.
© Joe Guetzloff/

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About the Author

Oak Simmons is a naturalist and writer based in the temperate rainforests of the Washington coast. Their favorite ways to spend time are hiking, swimming outdoors, and foraging wild mushrooms and herbs. They are inspired by the richness of the more-than-human world and grateful to be one of the many creatures who inhabit and and co-create it.

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