An Australian entomologist has named a new species of iridescent soldier fly, with “rainbow colors and legs for days,” after RuPaul.
The scientist, Bryan Lessard, also named a fly after Beyoncé in 2011, the Scaptia beyonceae.
The newest fly named by Lessard is the opaluma rupaul, with the first word being derived from the Latin words for “opal” and “thorn.”
Lessard told the Guardian that he chose the name because they look like “little gems buzzing around the forest floor” and have a prominent thorn tucked away under their abdomen. He said that he uses pop culture names to generate interest in fighting climate change and protecting threatened species.
“There’s a new wave of entomologists using pop culture to generate interest in our science and what we do, which is really exciting,” Lessard told the Guardian. “It’s a great way of generating attention about why flies are important, to get as many people as possible talking about these species that need help, so they can be protected.”
“With bushfire recovery efforts, normally the interest goes to the cute and cuddly species like koalas, but a lot of the invertebrates don’t have any attention, and they’re the essential workers of our ecosystem … it’s really important we study them.”
The entomologist said that naming the fly after the famous drag queen became the “obvious choice” as he was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race while conducting his research.
“I was watching a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race while examining the species and I know it would challenge RuPaul on the runway serving fierce looks,” Lessard said.
“It has a costume of shiny metallic rainbow colours, and it has legs for days. I think once (Ru) sees the fly she’ll realise it’s quite fierce and hopefully appreciate the name.”
RuPaul seemed flattered by the name and tweeted about it on Wednesday.
— RuPaul (@RuPaul) September 15, 2021
Meanwhile, Gypsy moths are being renamed as part of the Entomological Society of America’s Better Common Names Project — which seeks to get rid of terms that may be offensive in insect names.
“The purpose of common names is to make communication easier between scientists and the public audiences they serve. By and large, ESA’s list of recognized insect common names succeeds in this regard, but names that are unwelcoming to marginalized communities run directly counter to that goal,” ESA President Michelle S. Smith, said in a statement. “That’s why we’re working to ensure all ESA-approved insect common names meet our standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The ESA is now asking the public to help them find things that people might be outraged about, so that they can change those names too.
“The Better Common Names Project seeks community input on ESA’s common names list and will direct the formation of working groups to develop and recommend new common names where needed. In March 2021, the ESA Governing Board approved new policies for acceptable insect common names, which bar names referencing ethnic or racial groups and names that might stoke fear; the policies also discourage geographic references, particularly for invasive species,” the organization’s statement continued.