Gypsy Moths Being Renamed After Name Deemed 'Offensive'

By Cassandra Fairbanks

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 group decided that the term “gypsy” may be offensive to the Romani people.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the moth is “one of the first two for the organization’s Better Common Names Project, which seeks to replace names that contain derogative terms, inappropriate geographic references and for those that disregard what native communities called the species.”

The moth will now go by their scientific name “lymantria dispar,” which doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily.

The Gypsy ant is also being renamed and should now be called “aphaenogaster araneoides,” which people will surely use all the time.

“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 madness will not stop there. 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.

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