Scientists Nix Two More Insect Names Based On ‘Racial Slurs’


Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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Scientists removed two insect names Wednesday in an effort to replace names of bugs containing racial slurs and be more “inclusive,” a press release stated.

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) removed the terms “gypsy moth” and “gypsy ant,” that reference the “Lymantria dispar” and the “Aphaenogaster araneoides,” from its Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms List for its derogatory reference to Romani people, according to a statement.

ESA President Michelle S. Smith said the term “gypsy” is a rejected racial slur and that Romani people do not want an association with a harmful pest, the Courthouse News Service reported.

“It’s an ethnic slur to begin with that’s been rejected by the Romani people a long time ago,” Smith said. “Second, nobody wants to be associated with a harmful invasive pest,” which feeds on more than 300 types of trees and shrubs in North America, according to the ESA.

The ESA has also launched a new program, The Better Common Names Project, in an effort to replace “inappropriate” or “offensive” insect names, according to a statement. The ESA Governing Board also approved policies that prohibit names referencing racial or ethnic groups or titles that could cause fear in March, the statement said. The project also discourages references to geography.

Smith said the project intends to meet the organization’s standards of “diversity and inclusion” and that some common names fail to be inclusive to minority groups.

“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,” Smith said. “That’s why we’re working to ensure all ESA-approved insect common names meet our standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The ESA also created a digital form in order to receive public opinion on insect names that are offensive and ought to be changed. (RELATED: Removing Confederate Names From Schools Teaches Students The Wrong Lesson)

The removal and replacement of names have become commonplace in recent years. A New Jersey school board made a June 14 announcement that the school calendar would erase all holiday names to be “inclusive and equitable.” Similarly, Princeton University removed former President Woodrow Wilson’s name from their policy center in 2020 due to his “segregationist” policies.