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State Butterfly Bill Flies Through Wyoming Senate

January 26, 2009
Two green butterflies

The "butterfly bill" -- Senate File 16 -- passed 30-0 on final reading Monday in the Wyoming Senate, and the bill now proceeds to the House.

Selecting a state butterfly was the idea of third-grade students last school year at Big Horn Elementary School in Sheridan County.

State Sen. Bruce Burns and Rep. Rosie Berger of Sheridan County, along with Rep. Mary Throne of Cheyenne, have sponsored the bill, which would designate the Sheridan's green hairstreak (Callophrys sheridanii) as the state butterfly.

Professor Scott Shaw, an entomologist in the University of Wyoming's College of Agriculture, supports the bill and testified before a legislative committee Jan. 22. "This lovely insect is distinctive, being one of the few green butterflies in our region," he said.

Burns said this morning, "I believe the senators realize and appreciate the efforts of the kids in Big Horn as well as the educational benefits to them of watching the legislative process in action."

He added, "I don't know if the Big Horn kids could have done this without Scott Shaw's support. His knowledge and enthusiasm  put the butterfly bill over the top in the legislative committee."

The Big Horn student who got the project rolling, Tanner Warder, has since consulted with Shaw on numerous occasions to learn more about Sheridan's green hairstreak. Warder worked with classmate Lydia Mayer to get input from other Big Horn students before presenting their idea to the Sheridan County legislators.

Warder and Mayer joined Shaw in testifying before the committee, and other Big Horn students participated in the hearing via videoconference from their school.

Shaw said, "I find the student project very interesting, and I anticipated this would happen in Wyoming (designating a state insect or butterfly) because we're only one of about eight states without a state insect."

Sheridan's green hairstreak was discovered in 1877 near the location of present-day Sheridan, Shaw said. Both the town and the butterfly are named after Lt. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, a famous Civil War commander; however, the butterfly was actually named before the town.

The butterfly occurs widely across Wyoming in mountains and foothills, wherever its primary food source (the sulphur-flower) is found, said Shaw, who, as curator of the UW Insect Museum, estimates Sheridan's green hairstreak is one of at least 12,000 insect species found in Wyoming.

This butterfly species flies from March to June and is the earliest butterfly to emerge from a chrysalis (butterfly pupa) in Wyoming, Shaw said.

To track the bill, go here.

Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009

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