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The Green Life: Silly Names of Creepy Crawlies

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June 19, 2013

Silly Names of Creepy Crawlies

Studying insectsScientific animal names can be rather daunting. They look like an assembly of words and letters somebody put together to make it impossible for average people to say. Typically, the smaller the insect, the more difficult its name is to pronounce. But not always. Here's a list of funny, scientific names that are not only incredibly fun to say, but that you’re probably more likely to use than the common name.

Eubetia boop
This species is named after the 30’s cartoon character Betty Boop.

Research entomologist John Brown at the USDA has named a lot of species. So when he was assigned to this unexceptional, little, yellow-ish brown moth, he decided to run with his imagination. He wanted to create a name that looks very Latin and somber; however, when the scientific name is said out loud, it sounds hilarious. Though the name, when broken down, is composed of Latin words, they don’t make any sense once they are put together. This moth species is under the group of Tortricidae which Brown describes as “those small, ugly, little brown ones.”

Eubetia boop can be found in Costa Rica’s Racho Grande forest. 

Tiger mothEubetia bigaulae
The pronunciation for this species is “You betcha by golly,” which means yes in certain parts of northern United States.

He named it in 1998 in the same paper as Eubetia boop; the species can be found in select areas of Venezuela. Eubetia bigaulae is also fairly uncommon and indistinctive. It is slightly more dark brown than Eubetia boop but to truly tell the difference between these moths, one has to dissect them because the genitals act as fingerprints for the species.

This moth is easy to look over, whether it be because of its name or appearance, but the trick is to sound out the complicated names to find out what the scientist was really getting at. 


Pieza kakePieza kake
The pronunciation of this scientific name is a “piece of cake.”

Neal Evanhuis, Senior Entomologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, wrote a paper naming 11 species of brown, furry flies. He decided to create a series of puns for these tiny pollinating flies, which haven’t been extensively researched. In 2002, Evanhuis chose kake for the species name (second part of a scientific name) because it means “Jack” in Hawaiian. Therefore, he discreetly named this species after his mentor, Jack Hall.

Pieza rhea

Evanhuis uses the family name “Pieza” as a pun in a variety of ways. For this species, “Pieza” sounds like “pizza” so the entire name is pronounced “pizzeria”.

Pieza rhea is extremely similar to the Pieza kake but is found all over northern U.S. and has a yellow-ish coloring.

Other names in the paper include Pieza deresistans, which sounds like “pièce de résistance,” and Pieza pi, which sounds like “piece of pie.”

Oedipus complexOedipus complex
This one is pretty straightforward. This salamander is named after the controversial Freudian theory about certain feelings that are suppressed and stored in the unconscious.

Oedipus complex is common in Colombia and scarcer in Ecuador and Panama. It was named by E.R. Dunn in 1924, just 14 years after the psychological term was coined by Sigmund Freud. Also known as the Gamboa worm salamander, this terrestrial species does not have lungs but gills and has recently been renamed Oedipina complex by the scientific community.

-Image by iStockphoto/portokalis
-Image by Todd Gilligan
-Image courtesy of Neal Evanhuis
Image courtesy of Encyclopedia of life 

Ailsa Sachdev is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College and spent the last semester reporting on witchcraft in Morocco. She is passionate about food and travel, and knows "I'm hungry" in over 10 languages.


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