When scientists discover a new species–whether it is an insect, pathogen, weed, animal or aquatic species–they give it two names. One is the scientific name that will be used for the rest of the species’ existence to refer to the species, and the other is the “common name,” or the name that you will usually see in media reports. These names can take months, sometimes years or research before scientists formally present them, but while scientists are debating back and forth what the best name is, others will choose a common name just so they have a reference to the species, especially if they are trying to alert the public to be on alert.
In the blog “Insects in the City,” Mike Merchant describes one of these debates over the common name of an invasive ant in Texas discovered by pest management professional Tom Rasberry a few years ago. The insect was donned the “Rasberry crazy ant” at once, but as scientists began taking a closer look, they discovered that scientists in other states had given it other common names. A new common name for the ant species is currently under debate.
Since the first step of pest management (after Prevention) is identification, having a name for a species is obviously important, especially when you need to know how to control whatever is eating your crops (or garden plants). So if you’re interested in learning a bit about what goes into a name, read Mike’s blog post.