Why Is Utah Called the Beehive State?

G. Wiesen

Utah is known as the Beehive State because beehives are synonymous with industry and perseverance, values which were praised by Utah's founders. Bees are famously hard workers, toiling tirelessly for the well-being of their hive.

Utah's early Mormon settlers associated bees with industry and hard work -- values they sought to embody in their own lives.
Utah's early Mormon settlers associated bees with industry and hard work -- values they sought to embody in their own lives.

Beehive Symbolism

Utah's early settlers, who were primarily members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church or the Mormon Church, saw the beehive as the perfect metaphor for their industriousness and hard work. The beehive appears on the state flag of Utah, along with the state motto: “Industry."

The beehive symbol can be seen on Utah's state highway signs.
The beehive symbol can be seen on Utah's state highway signs.

The beehive symbolism dates back almost to the founding of the territory by early pioneers in the 1840s. Following the death of Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church, Brigham Young emerged as the new leader and wanted to find a new land where his followers could grow and develop. He led many church members west from Illinois, eventually settling in Utah, where he and thousands of pioneers established new towns.

The State of Deseret

The image of the beehive and its association with industriousness, productivity, and self-sufficiency were synonymous with those pioneers and their efforts to build new lives for themselves. Prior to its admission to the Union, Utah was provisionally known as the State of Deseret. The word "Deseret" is often seen in the names of Utah businesses, such as the Deseret News.

Did You Know?

The term “Deseret” is derived from a word in the Book of Mormon that means “honey bee."

Becoming the Beehive State

When Utah was admitted to the Union in 1896, the beehive was included on the state seal, as a carryover from earlier territorial symbolism. Although the beehive was not designated as the official state emblem until 1959, Utah had already been nicknamed the "Beehive State."

Utah's association with bees and beehives was further cemented in 1983 when a fifth-grade class successfully lobbied for the honey bee to become the official state insect. The hard work of honey bees as they build and support a hive has become emblematic of the importance of industry and family in the appropriately-named Beehive State.

Interesting Facts About the Beehive State

  • Unsurprisingly, the state astronomical symbol of Utah is the Beehive Cluster, an open cluster of around 1,000 stars in the constellation Cancer.

  • The state reptile of Utah is the Gila monster, the only venomous lizard native to the United States.

  • Utah has the youngest population in the United States, with a median age of 31 years old, compared to the national median age of 38.2 years old..

  • Utah is home to some of the most spectacular national parks in the United States, including Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.

  • Around 60% of Utah's population is Mormon, making it the most religiously homogenous state in the country.

  • Utah is arguably the most generous U.S. state, leading the way in volunteering rates and percent of income donated to charity.

  • Utah is home to one of the oldest and heaviest organisms on the planet: the 80,000-year-old Trembling Giant, also known as Pando, consists of 47,000 identical quaking aspen trees with a single root system.
Utah is home to some fantastic landscapes, such as Turret Arch.
Utah is home to some fantastic landscapes, such as Turret Arch.

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