Offensive Bugs Must Be Renamed According to Entomological Society

by mcardinal

Karley Cicale, FISM News


It does not take an expert to realize that bugs are a nuisance. From mosquitoes, to gnats, to stink bugs, they daily invade our space and sense of peace. However, it appears it now requires an expert to help us see that bugs are culturally offensive. No need to worry, the Entomological Society of America is stepping up to right this wrong as soon as possible – and they’re looking for your help. 

The Better Common Names Project invites submissions through an online form for suggestions to replace the “racist” common names of many species. Creatures such as the gypsy moth, gypsy ant, Mexican ricer borer, Texas citrus mite, African mole cricket, and Chilean recluse spider will no longer be accused by the non-existent mob of cultural appropriation.

The homepage of the project outlined what is deemed as an offensive name and why it was “necessary” to enact change. 

Common names of insects were formally recognized in the early 20th century to help bridge communication between those who study insects and those who don’t. However, not all common names accepted over the past 120 years align with the goal of better communication, and some hinder it. Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Names that contain derogative terms
  • Names for invasive species with inappropriate geographic references
  • Names that inappropriately disregard what the insect might be called by native communities

These problematic names perpetuate harm against people of various ethnicities and races, create an entomological and cultural environment that is unwelcoming and non-inclusive, disrupt communication and outreach, and counteract the very purpose of common names.

The society admits that in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) portion of their website, they do not name insects of their own accord, but rather recognize commonly used names already within communities. They assert that just as names come from communities, those communities should have the opportunity to change those names as well. 

As precedent, the FAQ refers to the recent change of several Covid-19 variants from names referencing geographical areas to Greek letters:

Referencing geography in a common name for an insect, in particular for invasive or harmful species, can perpetuate discrimination, xenophobia, and bias against people from the same geographic region.

Working groups will be formed once submissions have been made. These groups will then submit proposals, before a final approval process takes place. In the meantime there is an extensive list available for those interested in knowing the in-depth guidelines behind officially sanctioned insect naming conventions.