Discover the Official Vermont State Insect

Closeup of a western honey bee or European honey bee (Apis mellifera) feeding nectar of pink great hairy willowherb Epilobium hirsutum flowers
© SanderMeertinsPhotography/

Written by Em Casalena

Updated: September 7, 2023

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Many states have a state animal, or even a specific state butterfly or state fish. But did you know that many states also have a state insect? States from Arizona to Idaho to Vermont all have their own designated state insects. So what is the Vermont state insect? In this guide, we’ll break down all the information you need to know about the Vermont state insect.

What is the Vermont State Insect?

The official state insect of Vermont is the European honey bee, also known as Apis mellifera. The European honey bee is a unique insect known for its function in pollination and honey production. This kind of bee has fascinated people for ages because it has a sophisticated social structure and outstanding foraging skills.

As omnivorous insects, honey bees have a broad diet that includes nectar.

Where European Honey Bees Live

All of Europe, some of Africa, and portions of Asia are home to the European honey bee. Additionally, it has been spread throughout many other parts of the world, including areas of North America. These bees can thrive in a variety of conditions, including temperate and subtropical areas. They flourish in places like meadows, gardens, and agricultural fields that have an abundance of nectar and pollen sources.

What European Honey Bees Eat

Honey bees have a broad diet since they are omnivore insects. Nectar, a delicious liquid released by flowers, is their main food source. They gather nectar from blooms using their long, straw-like tongue (or proboscis) and store it in their honey stomach. When they get back to the hive, they regurgitate the nectar to the other worker bees. Those bees then use enzymatic digestion and evaporation to convert it into honey. Their primary source of energy is honey. It is stored in honeycomb cells to keep the colony alive during times of scarcity.

Honey bees also need pollen that is high in protein in addition to nectar to meet their dietary demands. They have unique bristles on their legs that they use to collect pollen grains from flowers. On their rear legs, pollen baskets are used to collect the pollen and carry it back to the hive. Pollen is an essential source of protein for the developing brood. It is also used to make royal jelly, which is provided to the queen and developing larvae as food.

European Honey Bee Behavior

The social insect known as the European honey bee lives in vast colonies that include a queen, a number of drones, and large numbers of worker bees. The queen, who is the biggest bee in the hive, lays the eggs. Male bees known as drones exist only to mate with the queen. Female worker bees carry out a variety of responsibilities including foraging, caring for the brood, constructing and maintaining the hive, and protecting the entrance. These bees make up the bulk of the colony.

The complex communication system of honey bees is one remarkable aspect of their behavior. Foraging bees share information about the location of plentiful food sources with their nestmates. They do this through a sequence of dances known as the “waggle dance.” Other bees can travel precisely and take advantage of the resources effectively thanks to this dance. Essentially, it communicates information about the location and distance of the food.

The Importance of European Honey Bees

Additionally crucial pollinators, European honey bees help many floral plants reproduce. The bees accidentally spread pollen grains across flowers as they search for nectar and pollen, promoting cross-pollination and the development of fruits and seeds. Honey bees are thought to be crucial to agriculture and biodiversity since they help pollinate a sizeable amount of the world’s food crops.

The ability of the European honey bee to create honey has attracted human curiosity. Humans have always valued honey for its sweet flavor and therapeutic benefits. Beekeeping, also known as apiculture, is the management of honey bee colonies for the purpose of producing honey, providing pollination services, and preserving healthy bee populations.

This bee species is a fascinating insect with an exceptional social structure and crucial ecological functions. It survives in a variety of environments and feeds on nectar and pollen. It is an essential species for both humans and the environment because of its sophisticated communication system, honey production, and pollination functions.

Closeup of a western honey bee or European honey bee (Apis mellifera) feeding nectar of purple bellflower Campanula flowers

European honey bees (pictured) are also sometimes known as Western honey bees.


When Did the European Honey Bee Become the Official Vermont State Insect?

In 1978, Vermont made the European honey bee its official state insect. The decision was an easy one, as the state recognized the species’ significance and effects on the environment and economy of the state. The European honey bee was chosen as the state insect because of its significant function in pollination and honey production, both of which are essential to Vermont’s agricultural industry.

Beekeeping has a long history in Vermont, a state renowned for its stunning landscapes and agricultural traditions. With its capacity to effectively pollinate a wide range of crops, the European honey bee has played a crucial role in the development of Vermont’s agricultural sector. The bee has proven to be a great ally for Vermont’s farmers and gardeners because of its meticulous foraging practices and contribution to abundant crops.

Just as well, the honey made by European honey bees plays a significant role in the cultural character of Vermont. The immense floral diversity of the state’s landscapes is reflected in the reputation of its high-quality, artisanal honey. Beekeepers in Vermont take pleasure in their work, producing honey that not only enhances the flavor of regional food but also represents the state’s dedication to environmentally friendly practices and sustainable agriculture.

A Symbol of Conservation

The selection of the European honey bee as Vermont’s state insect also demonstrates the state’s interest in pollinator protection. Numerous difficulties are harming bees, especially the European honey bee. Such difficulties include habitat loss, chemical exposure, and climate change. By emphasizing the value of the honey bee, Vermont hopes to increase public understanding of the need to save and maintain these important pollinators.

The selection of the European honey bee as Vermont’s state insect serves as a reminder of the interdependence between people, the environment, and agriculture. It honors the bee’s crucial function in the environment of the state, its contribution to the production of honey, and its importance in preserving Vermont’s agricultural legacy. Vermont’s adoption of the honey bee as its state emblem demonstrates its dedication to advancing biodiversity, environmental preservation, and sustainable agricultural methods.

What Does the Official Vermont State Insect Look Like?

European honey bees have unique physical traits and complex anatomical features that support their extraordinary talents and social organization. Let’s take a closer look at their looks and anatomy.

The European honey bee is a tiny creature, with a length of about 10 to 15 millimeters. They are coated in thick hairs that give them a fuzzy look, and they have strong, compact bodies. Although the color of the bees might vary, they are typically distinguished by bands of alternating yellow and black or brown stripes across their abdomen. They may be distinguished from other bee species thanks to their stripes.

Honey Bee Anatomy

The head, thorax, and abdomen are the three primary body regions of the honey bee. Important sensory organs and tissues are housed in the skull. Large compound eyes, which have great vision and allow the bees to navigate and find food sources precisely, are a feature of the insect. Three tiny simple eyes, known as ocelli, are located between the compound eyes and help detect changes in light intensity. Honey bees have long, thin antennae at the front of their heads, which are essential for detecting chemical messages and environmental cues.

The center part of the honey bee’s body, the thorax, is where the bee moves about and flies. It has three pairs of legs, and the rear legs include bristles and pollen baskets as specialized structures for gathering pollen. Two sets of wings are also housed in the thorax, allowing the bees to fly quickly and precisely.

The honey bee’s abdomen, which is the back part of the body, is where its critical organs and tissues are located. A sophisticated network of digestive organs, including the honey stomach, is located inside the belly. Here, nectar is briefly stored before being converted into honey. The stinger, a unique organ that enables the bees to protect the colony, is likewise located in the abdomen. However, it’s crucial to remember that only female worker bees have stingers, but the stinger of the queen is adapted for egg-laying.

Overall, the European honey bee exhibits a small, distinctive body shape with modifications that help them survive and prosper in their surroundings. Their extraordinary talents and vital function within the hive and wider environment are a result of their sensory organs, specific body components for foraging, and defense systems.

Bee, Black Background, Pollination, Animal, Animal Themes

The European honey bee (pictured) is known for its fuzzy, almost fur-like body.

© Rozehnal

Where Do European Honey Bees Live in Vermont?

Due to Vermont’s diversified flora and favorable environmental factors, European honey bees can be found in habitats across the whole state. Rural environments, agricultural landscapes, gardens, and even urban settings are all places where honey bees can be found.

Honey bees are frequently kept in maintained hives by beekeepers in Vermont. These beehives are deliberately positioned in various areas to benefit from rich honey and pollen supplies. In order to give the bees access to a consistent supply of food throughout the seasons, beekeepers deliberately choose locations that offer a rich and diversified floral forage.

In Vermont, there are many possibilities for honey bees to flourish in rural settings. Wide-ranging blooming plants may be found in the state’s huge woods, meadows, and open areas, which are its most notable natural features. Clovers, dandelions, goldenrod, blackberries, apple trees, and cherry trees, among others, are among the blooms that honey bees graze on. The agricultural crops of Vermont, like apples, pumpkins, berries, and other fruits and vegetables, depend on these bees for pollination.

Honeybees are drawn to Vermont’s agricultural landscapes. They receive vital nourishment from farms that grow crops like clover, alfalfa, sunflowers, and other bee-friendly plants. The placement of beehives close to these agricultural regions by beekeepers and farmers frequently helps to promote crop pollination and honey output.

Honey Bees in the City

In Vermont, honey bees can be found in cities and suburban settings in addition to farms and rural locations. There are many blooming plants that draw bees to gardens, parks, and residential environments. Beekeepers are keeping hives on rooftops, balconies, and communal gardens in communities like Burlington and Montpelier as urban beekeeping has grown in popularity. These urban honey bees aid in local pollination and urban honey production.

Though honey bees flourish in Vermont, they still have to contend with issues including habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and climate change. Supporting honey bee populations and insuring their continuing existence in the state requires conservation activities. Such activities include developing bee-friendly habitats, cutting back on pesticide usage, and encouraging beekeeping techniques.

Can European Honey Bees Sting?

Yes, European honey bees can sting. European honey bees have stingers like other bee species do to defend themselves. It’s vital to remember that only female worker bees have stingers; the queen’s stinger, on the other hand, is specially designed for egg-laying and is rarely employed for defense.

A honey bee stings by injecting venom into the victim with the help of its stinger. Due to the barbed nature of the stinger, it embeds itself immediately into the victim’s skin. As a result, when the honey bee tries to remove its stinger, it breaks away from the bee’s abdomen. This results in serious harm and eventually kills the bee.

Honey bees sting to emit a chemical alarm pheromone that warns other bees in the area of potential danger. If the threat continues, this pheromone may draw other bees to the area, which might result in several stings.

Don’t Be Scared of Honey Bees!

It’s important to note that honey bees are often not aggressive and only sting when they are directly threatened by something that might harm them or their colony. They sting more frequently in response to rapid noises, motions, or disturbances close to their hive. To lessen the chance of getting stung while coming into contact with a honey bee, it is advisable to keep your composure and refrain from swatting or making rapid movements.

When a honey bee stings you, it’s crucial to get the stinger out as soon as you can. The stinger can be removed from the skin by scraping it with a blunt item, such as a credit card. A cold compress used topically and over-the-counter painkillers taken can assist in lessening the discomfort brought on by the stings.

Does Vermont Have Other State Animals?

Yes! In addition to the European honey bee, Vermont has recognized several species as state animals. The state has selected a number of creatures to symbolize its varied species and to honor its natural heritage.

The hermit thrush is Vermont’s official bird. The forests and woodlands of Vermont are home to this little songbird, which is recognized for its ethereal and melodic song. Its selection as the state bird is a tribute to Vermont’s beautiful natural surroundings and its diverse wildlife.

The Morgan horse serves as the state animal of Vermont. The adaptable Morgan breed is renowned for its hardiness, stamina, and mild nature. Since it was bred in Vermont during the 18th century and became known as one of the first and most significant horse breeds in America, it is significant historically for the state of Vermont.

The Vermont state insect is one that is vital to the ecosystem it is a part of. Like all honey bees, the European honey bee is a vital pollinator. To put it simply, this insect is why we are able to eat the food that we have. European honey bees are true heroes!

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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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