Published May 4, 2018

Indiana’s new state insect has roots in New Harmony

Staff report

As of this March, the State of Indiana has an official state insect with roots in one of our own locations: New Harmony State Historic Site. 

“Four years ago, while working on a class project, second graders at Cumberland Elementary School in West Lafayette realized that Indiana was one of only three states without a state insect,” said Amanda Bryden, site manager at New Harmony State Historic Site. “They thought this wasn’t good company to be in and decided to rectify the situation.”

Over the course of four school years, the students collected 768 petition signatures and more than 800 letters of support to designate a specific insect: Say’s Firefly.

This particular firefly was first named and described by Thomas Say – a preeminent scientist who lived in New Harmony in the 1820s and 1830s. He joined the Owen/Maclure communal experiment in New Harmony in 1826, traveling there from Philadelphia. There, he had been curator of the American Philosophical Society, professor of natural history at the University of Pennsylvania, and a founder of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University.

Amanda said their site staff became aware of the campaign in 2016, when State Senator Jim Tomes visited the site and saw an image of Thomas Say on a text panel. Tomes explained that he had co-sponsored the state insect bill.

“He put the second grade teacher in touch with us, and we assisted the students by providing them with information about Thomas Say and New Harmony,” Amanda said.

On March 23, a bill was signed at the Cumberland Elementary gymnasium designating the Say’s Firefly as the official state insect of Indiana.

“New Harmony is excited to have a direct link to an official state symbol,” Amanda said of the signing. “We are proud of our history, and see this as another opportunity to share our community’s history and natural beauty.”