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Re: RE: [beemonitoring] On the use of the word "metallic" in descriptions of bees

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  • Anita M Collins, Ph.D.
    Sam, I tend to agree with Barb, that the simpler the terms the better. However, applying metllic to a group, when some are not clearly so, is probably not a
    Message 1 of 10 , Nov 5, 2009
      I tend to agree with Barb, that the simpler the terms the better.  However, applying metllic to a group, when some are not clearly so, is probably not a good use of the descriptor, and one of your suggestions would be better.  Something with a broader meaning??
      If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research.
      -Albert Einstein

      Nov 5, 2009 07:23:06 AM, barbara.abraham@... wrote:



      Personally I have never had any trouble telling “metallic” from “non-metallic” in general, but I have not used the keys excessively yet for bees.  My only comment is that we should stick to a one word description instead of a six-seven  word description, when the one word is clear to most users.  Keys are already complicated enough.


      I will be interested in what other members of the list say on this topic!





      Barbara J. Abraham, Ph.D.

      Associate Professor

      SEEDS Ecology Chapter Advisor

      Department of Biological Sciences

      Hampton University

      Hampton, VA  23668




      From: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com [mailto:beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Sam Droege
      Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 6:47 AM
      To: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [beemonitoring] On the use of the word "metallic" in descriptions of bees



      In the revisions, books, and keys relating to bees the term "metallic" is often used as a descriptor for the integument (skin) of bees.  Metallic can be used to describe the whole bee:  "metallic green bee" is a common phrase or it can be that a bee has "metallic reflections."   Entire groups of bees are often referred to as "metallic" even though some have glossy integuments and are highly reflective and others are so dulled by microscopic lines that they reflect no light.  We have also propagated this term in a similar loose way and it can be found throughout our online guides (http://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?search=Apoidea#Identification).  We have had complaints from students that they are confused by the term and wonder when something should be considered "metallic" and "nonmetalic."  After ignoring those comments for a long-time we have begun to wonder ourselves if the term is really that useful.  

      Here is what Merriam-Webster says regarding its use in descriptions:

      3 : resembling metal: as a : having iridescent and reflective properties

      In other words an adjective referring to reflectance of the surface.

      Because of the confusion and overly broad use of how metallic has been applied, its many connotations in the English language, the images it brings to our minds,  and the loose way it has been deployed in descriptions (ours included and perhaps in particular) what we are  thinking now is that in our online guides we will strike the term "metallic" from the guides and replace it with a more nuanced approach, separating color from reflectance.

      Proposed changes then would be:

      1.  Colors will simply be referred to by their common names.  For example the color of Augochlorella  aurata would be simply "green" not "metallic green."  While the color of Halictus confusus would be along the lines of "dark green often with gold-yellow overtones."  

      2.  For surface reflectance any number of terms will be useful from shiny, mirror-like, glossy but when the surface is dull and reflective, the cause for the dulling should be mentioned (tessellated, imbricate, microscopic lines, rugose, beaded etc).

      3.  For the situation in which reflectance and color are more complicated, then usually it can be described as an "iridescence."   This would be particularly true for situations when a species is black or nearly black but has multicolored, reflective overtones similar to that of a light film of oil on water.  So a description of many of the abdomens of Lasioglossum (Dialictus) would include the basic color (black, dark brown, very dark brown with dark red highlights) and the presence of iridescent dark blue or green reflectance on certain portions of the tergites.   Similarly, many members of Augochloropsis would be green with blue iridescent overtones.

      I am sure that others have thought through and come to similar or better conclusions about this in the past, but before we starting changing the 1500 or so characters we have written for bees in these guides we thought we would post this for comments and suggestions.

      By the way, we are in a general process of updating and consolidating the wording and terms throughout the guides.  Suggestions are helpful as well as complaints about any guide wording.  Complainers are our best friends.  We are also putting together a generically worded blank guide that would have a set of characters to score that could be used as a starting place for anyone putting together a guide to a country or region's bees.



      Sam Droege  sdroege@...                      
      w 301-497-5840 h 301-390-7759 fax 301-497-5624
      USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
      BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave., Beltsville, MD  20705


      Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
      Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
      and on the meadows let the wind go free.

      Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
      grant them a few more warm transparent days,
      urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
      the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

      Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
      Whoever is alone will stay alone,
      will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
      and wander along the boulevards, up and down,
      restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

                   - Rainer Maria Rilke

      P Bees are not optional.

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