RE: [beemonitoring] "common names"
I agree with you that scientific names are perfectly adequate and should be used by everyone (which may not occur in spite of our agreement on it here!). However, the issue that has come up here, suggests that there might be some benefit in the designation of a common name simply as a deterrent against people calling it by a misleading name like “carpenter bee.” This designation would not preclude the use of the scientific name, of course. I do not have a dog in this race and was just trying to present an option for this purpose.
Peter Bernhardt wrote:
>This is an important point. What is the value of common names whenI'm on the record elsewhere saying this, but I'll say this all here, as well:
>we attempt to educate the public? If we stop referring to L.
>chrysurus as a carpenter bee should we come up with another common
>name (Japanese wood bee?) or try to convince the public to learn the
> scientific name?
>There is a great public resistance to scientific names in America
>you don't see in some other English speaking countries especially
>England and Australia. The gardening and natural history "impulse"
>remains strong and people with some high school training in biology
>often prefer to use scientific names (of plants, mind you) or they
>turn the scientific name into a common name. For example, instead
>of planting gum tree and native honeysuckles in Australia you now
>plant eucalypts and banksias.
>We may becoming victims of our own success. As the general public
>becomes aware that there are many more "kinds of bees" than
>commercial honeybees and bumblebees what do we tell them to call
>everything else? Well, in the past we've generalized and referred
>to yellow-faced bees, miner bees, cuckoo bees, leaf cutter bees,
>carpenter bees etc. If you go to Youtube and look for a video of
>Megachile sculpturalis it's listed under the name, giant Asian resin
>bee. In England, some people call members of the genus Anthophora
>"flower bees" (not very original). In Australia, one entomologist
>is trying to convince people to call Amegilla bombiformis the "teddy
>bear bee" (look it up, the name is apt). What should we be doing to
>familiarize a well-meaning public who have never had basic school
>training in taxonomy (plant or animal)? Should we make up common
>names or "anglicize" genera; eg. andrenas, xylocopes, megachiles,
>One thing is for certain. if the hardware and home protection
>industry identify L. chrysurus as a "threat" to property it will get
>a common name but it may not be the one we think is appropriate.
I absolutely despise the practice of *creating* brand-new "common
names" for organisms that don't already have them. Arguments that
people can't or won't learn scientific names are patently false,
given that every 8-year old can spout scientific names like
"Velociraptor", "Tyrannosaurus", "Triceratops" and "Archaeopteryx"
from the first few times they hear them. People who are gardeners
have no trouble with names like Chrysanthemum, Rhododendron, Petunia,
Nasturtium, Amaryllis, etc. - all because these are the names they
were taught to use, mostly because they WERE in common use. But even
brand new dinosaur names - some of them hopeless tongue-twisters -
can be picked up and used right out of the box because the people who
use dinosaur names ALWAYS use the scientific names. I would go so far
as to say that one of the reasons that dinosaurs are considered so
cool - by the science geek culture, in particular - is specifically
because they *don't* have cute, fluffy, teddy-bear nicknames.
If the public is just now beginning to get their education about
insects, then WE have to make a choice: do we really, truly, want to
spend man-years of labor trying to devise freshly-minted names for a
million or more species, or would we rather tell the public that
insects are JUST as cool as dinosaurs, and to *prove* how cool they
are, we use scientific names to refer to them. Ask yourself this: if
you went up to a budding 8-year old biologist and told them "These
critters in this picture book are called Apisaurus, Bombusaurus,
Ceratinadon, Anthophoraptor, Andrenadon, and Xylocopteryx" they would
soak those names up like a sponge, and regurgitate them without
batting an eyelash, right?
I'll point out that I'm the author of a fairly well-known insect
field guide (to cerambycids), and when I wrote it, I made absolutely
sure that the only common names in it were genuinely common names,
and that they were buried in the text, rather than used as headers -
every species that had no common name didn't get one. I've gotten
lots of compliments on this, and no complaints. Spending time with
coleopterists, I'll note, however, that almost never do even hobbyist
beetle collectors use common names for *species* - and even when they
do, e.g., for tiger beetles, they still know and recognize the
scientific names. Evidently, beetles are much, much cooler than
butterflies, as are the people who collect them, by extension. I say
this tongue-in-cheek, but do NOT underestimate just how true the
underlying point is. I know for a fact that there ARE beetle
collectors who look down on butterfly collectors *because* the latter
don't use scientific names.
More to the point, in discussions I've had with other people who have
written insect field guides - and been forced by the publisher/editor
to make up bogus common names - that they all *disliked* and
*disapproved* of being forced to do so. Every time a new book comes
out that has phony common names for insects in it, we lose that much
more ground, in that we will encounter that much more resistance if
we try to publish anything that does not follow suit. Bad precedents
have been set, and I would urge people to fight those precedents and
stick up for principles. If dinosaurs and flowers and beetles can do
it, WE can do it.
The general public is *prefectly capable* of learning and using
scientific names in common speech, even if only - as Peter noted - in
"anglicized" form, like banksias and eucalypts. But we are the ones
who should decide which path we want to follow. If the consensus is
cute-n-fluffy, then at least I'll have said my piece in opposition.
I'd just feel sorry for Jason Gibbs and John Ascher, having to come
up for "common names" for a few hundred Dialictus and Andrena... ;-)
Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
"There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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- Visit this Utah State University extension website to participate in coming up with common names for native bees