Indiana catches elusive state insect

Students' torch for Say's Firefly comes to fruition

Posted on May 01 2018 in Features, General

The Indiana state flag features a torch with stars beaming out from its flame against a dark blue field. Every summer night, that flag comes alive in the fields and forests of rural and suburban Indiana in the form of fireflies lighting up the dark blue night with their illuminating flickers.

How appropriate, then, that before a gymnasium packed with elementary students from West Lafayette and Sullivan County and guests from New Harmony and around the state, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill giving Indiana its official state insect — Say’s Firefly — March 23 at Cumberland Elementary in West Lafayette.

Electric Consumer was there as the one of the world’s most interesting insects — and a perfect example of energy efficient lighting — came to represent Indiana through the persistency of a group of elementary students from Maggie Samudio’s classes over the past several years at Cumberland Elementary.

Electric Consumer featured the quest as a cover story in the June 2016 issue.

Photos by Richard G. Biever

Students and teachers at Cumberland Elementary practice flashing tiny lights like fireflies to greet the governor for the bill signing ceremony.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and Kayla Xu, the fifth grader who rekindled the quest to have Say’s Firefly named the state insect as a second grader, chat before the ceremony.

The governor speaks to Cumberland Elementary students and a group of students who came to witness the signing from Sullivan County along with special guest from around the state.

Gov. Holcomb, Kayla Xu, Sen. Ron Alting, who introduced the firefly bill, and Rep. Sally Siegrist, who supported the legislation in the House, turn to watch a welcome video from the superintendent of West Lafayette schools who was unable to attend the signing ceremony. Among distinguished guests in the background are retired Purdue entomologists Arwin Provonsha, far left, and Tom Turpin, directly behind Kayla. The two entomologists originally proposed the firefly for state insect 20 some years ago. Rep. Sheila Klinker was also seated in the row of dignitaries; she was among the earliest supporters of Say’s Firefly and supported Kayla and her classmates.

Gov. Holcomb signs the bill, allowing Kayla to rest her hand on his, as he makes her four-year quest that began with a simple question (“Why doesn’t Indiana have a state insect?”) come to fruition. More than just creating a state insect, the signing, as he pointed out, demonstrates to youngsters and Hoosiers everywhere that their voices are also heard in the Statehouse. Through hard work and persistence, they too can make an impact on government.

It was thumb’s up after the signing.

After the signing ceremony, retired Purdue entomologist Arwin Provonsha presents a painting of Say’s Firefly to Gov. Holcomb. He painted the now famous illustration, which has appeared in countless media promoting the insect, when he and other Purdue entomologists first pushed to have the firefly, first discovered and named by Thomas Say in New Harmony in the 1820s, as the state insect 20 years ago.

Gov. Holcomb tossed out T-shirts, with an illustration of fireflies and a Ball jar (another Indiana icon) on the back, to Cumberland Students after the signing.

Maggie Samudio and Gov. Holcomb after the signing. Electric Consumer presented Samudio with a “Louie the Lightning Bug” toy, in her hand. Louie is an electrical mascot, owned by Moore Syndication, to help spread the message of electrical safety and energy efficiency among the customers of many electric utilities nationwide. Electric Consumer featured a profile of Louie as a related sidebar with its article on Samudio’s students working to have the firefly made the state insect in the June 2016 issue.