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Competing bills would give Michigan an official state butterfly

 The black swallowtail butterfly has black wings with blue and orange accents, while the monarch has orange wings with black lines and white dots.
Matt Weegman / USFWS and Nicholas Flat/ National Park Service
Lawmakers are debating between the black swallowtail (left) and the monarch butterfly (right).

State lawmakers are resuming a long-running debate over which insect should serve as Michigan’s official state butterfly.

Michigan is one of two states in the nation that has not selected a state insect. In previous sessions of the legislature, bills to select the state butterfly have not been put up for a vote.

Representative Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township) thinks that will change this session with a new Democratic majority running the House and Senate. She says picking a state butterfly encourages wildlife education and an interest in pollinators, especially for children.

“By designating a state butterfly, we create new opportunities to educate Michiganders on the importance of preserving wildlife and protecting pollinator habitat(s)," Brixie said.

Brixie is the sponsor of a bill that would designate the black swallowtail as Michigan’s state butterfly. She says her constituents from the Meridian Garden Club lobbied her to select it because it can be found in all 83 of the state’s counties.

“The black swallowtail is a full time resident of Michigan, and it never leaves for warmer climates," Brixie said. "It doesn't migrate.”

Representative Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac) is behind a competing proposal to back the more well-known monarch butterflyto represent the state. She says the migratory species is becoming increasingly endangered.

While the monarch is not included on the U.S. Endangered Species list, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature did add the butterfly to its list of Threatened Species.

“Even our young people, our students are involved and invested in preserving the monarch butterfly," Carter said. "And other than that, it's just really a beautiful butterfly.”

Seven other states have already selected the monarch as a state insect, while only two other states have picked the black swallowtail.

Carter says the black swallowtail is also "a very special butterfly" but said her constituents were eager to support the monarch by crowning it to represent the state.

"When I reintroduced the monarch butterfly [bill]...it was almost like these...communities just [were] elated," Carter said. "They want it, they're invested in it."

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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