Bug Scientists Share World Food Prize

The World Food Prize was conceived in 1986 as a way of recognizing scientists who devote their lives to combating hunger. Drs. Perry Adkisson and Ray Smith were honored for their involvement in pushing worldwide acceptance of integrated pest management (which of course includes biological control an important component). Adkisson spent most of his academic career at Texas A&M University; Smith was at the University of California - Berkeley. After working on similar but separate tracks, the two men teamed up in the late 1960's to promote IPM through research, government programs and international seminars. On October 12 they shared the $250,000 cash award for their contribution to improving the world's food supply.

Common Names of Insects

Have you ever wondered who dreams up the common names of insects? Or have you ever thought that we spell these common names kind of funny? Or wondered why they may be spelled differently in our newsletter than in Webster's dictionary? Well, there is method to our madness.

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) has a committee which evaluates and approves the common names of insects and related arthropods (such as spiders, mites, and ticks). It's not just the common names of the species that are standardized, but also the names of insect families.

ESA guidelines tend to reduce common names to as few words as possible, usually just two or three, but multiple words can be combined into single words. Hyphens are rarely used. Thus, we have the thirteenspotted lady beetle or the steelblue lady beetle.

Also, group names that are appropriate for the larger classification group are left uncombined with their descriptor, but if not systematically correct, are combined. For example, the Order Diptera is composed of the true flies. So "house fly" and "stable fly" are correct usages (name and descriptor are uncombined). But fireflies and dragonflies are not true flies, so they are combined with their descriptor. Similarly, the larvae of moths and beetles are not true worms, so examples of correct usages include corn earworm and wheat wireworm. This convention is followed to standardize the format of common names. For example, on the same page of Webster's, you can find leafhopper (combined) but leaf roller (separated); a lack of standardization.

In the great majority of cases, only one common name is approved for each species. But a few exceptions occur where there has been significant standardized usage of multiple common names. So, the serious pest Helicoverpa zea is correctly called bollworm, corn earworm, and tomato fruitworm.

Do all insects have approved common names? Not by far. Usually only those that are serious pests, very common, or very popular with collectors have had approved common names. Other than the lady beetles and some other groups of large, colorful, or common predators, very few beneficial predators or parasitoids have common names. For example, even though the wasp family Ichneumonidae is one of the largest of all insect families, many of which are very important in biological control, not a single one has a common name approved by ESA.


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