Published January 14 2011
Forum editorial: Ladybug? Why not mosquito as the state insect?Not every idea that comes out of a North Dakota classroom should be adopted as legislation. Take the campaign by second-grade students in Kenmare to have the ladybug designated the state insect. It’s good the kids are learning how government works. It’s hard not to applaud their efforts and praise their teacher for encouraging them.
But the ladybug? The kids can do better. First, are they talking about the native ladybug or the Asian version? There’s a difference. The Asian import bites (some of the native species do, too), so it doesn’t necessarily live up to the good-luck reputation of ladybugs we all knew and loved as children.
Second, while ladybugs might have some beneficial importance to farming, the insect that really puts North Dakota on the agricultural map is the honeybee. North Dakota often leads the nation in honey production. Who doesn’t like honeybees? But, the honeybee had its shot in the 1989 Legislature and was told to buzz off.
If the students want to be honest, the bug that flies to the top of the state’s entomological list is the mosquito. They are everywhere. They command more attention from North Dakotans and suck up more resources from cities (“vector control”) than any other native bugs. We concede the reviled mosquito attaining state insect status is a long shot.
The ladybug bill – whether it succeeds or fails – is an opportunity to look at the state’s list of official this and that. It needs an update.
- The American elm is the state tree. By the time the students at Kenmare are adults, most elms in the state will be gone, victims of Dutch elm disease. How about replacing the elm with the venerable cottonwood, found along nearly every waterway in the state? Or the tough, beautiful and long-lived bur oak, a tree of exceptional hardiness and adaptability.
- Teredo-bored petrified wood is the state fossil. Ever seen any of it? Scrap it. Replace it with one of North Dakota’s world-class dinosaur fossil finds: the triceratops, tyrannosaur or mososaur.
- Milk is the state beverage. Milk? North Dakota is not a significant dairy state; it hasn’t been for decades. The official beverage should be beer because the state is the leading producer of high-quality malting barley, which goes into the making of the best beers. Also, North Dakotans drink a lot of beer.
- The northern pike is the state fish. Oh, come on. Every angler worth his creel limit knows the wily walleye is North Dakota’s premier fish.
Ladybugs, fish and fossils: a few weighty matters for legislators to ponder as they go about the heady work of lawmaking.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.