There are 212 insects native to Washington. The green darner dragonfly, one of the largest and fastest-flying in North America, became the state’s official insect in 1997. Other common insects in Washington include the American bumble bee, the yellow jacket, the paper wasp, the American cockroach and the banded garden spider.
The bees most commonly found in Washington are the honey bee and bumble bee. Honey bees live in colonies and nest in large tree crevices or building walls. Bumble bees establish new colonies in the spring and may build nests in abandoned burrows. Both species sting to defend their colonies but are usually passive when foraging.
Paper wasps are the most common type found in Washington. They prey on other insects such as crickets, flies and caterpillars. They usually build their paper nests on the overhands of buildings, tree limbs or support structures in attics and barns. Nests feature construction using wood fiber that the wasps chew and mix with saliva. Wasps have the ability to sting numerous times when threatened or protecting a nest, using stingers that contain small barbs.
The state insect, the green darner dragonfly, is observable in Washington in early spring and throughout the fall. Its body is 2 to 3 inches in length with a green, emerald thorax that runs down the middle of a blue abdomen. The adults are strong fliers, adept at catching mosquitoes and other harmful insects on the wing. They have strong and powerful jaws that tear apart their prey. Immature nymphs are carnivorous and prey on very small fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects.