A Problem of Nomenclature

Entomologists are in a unique position whereby they are often expected to be taxonomists as well as their field of specialty. However at the same time correct taxonomy can be of little use when communicating with the wider public.

When I first visited a vineyard for my PhD I realised the difficulty of communicating my research to the wider public. Talking about hymenoptera can result in blank stares, while talking about wasps may result in concerned comments about the European wasps (Vespula germanica) you have apparently found.

This example highlights how concerns can be inadvertently created by not taking the time to properly tailor communications to the target audience.
One way to better communicate research is to add descriptive prefixes to family groups that can help demonstrate the point that is being made. For example I have made it a habit to now to refer to parasitoid hymenoptera as beneficial wasps or native beneficial wasps.

Other issues to look out for are:

  • “bugs” meaning hemipterans not insects in general
  • “Insects” being interpreted as including spider, worms and all the other creepy crawlies
  • Parasitoids hosts: I have read concerned comments online about people worried that bio-control releases could parasitise humans!

Have any readers encountered similar issues?

DSC02553a native cockroach

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One Response to A Problem of Nomenclature

  1. Chris says:

    The general public do overlook the issues in this field, I can see that its wide and varied. I think you can blame the movie “Alien” for people worries about Parasitoids hosts. After all that was the life-cycle of the Alien….

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