Lymantria Dispar No Longer Called the ‘Gypsy Moth’

— Written By
en Español

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.

English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲
Lymantria dispar caterpillar on leaf, fuzzy with red and blue dots

Lymantria dispar, an invasive pest that feeds on the leaves of many hardwood species, gets a new name. Image: Jon Yuschock, Bugwood.org

When we think of insects, rarely do we think, “Wow, look at that beautiful Danaus plexippus!” In both conversation and thought, most people refer to insects (and really, many plants and animals) by their common name: “Wow, look at that beautiful monarch!”

But did you know these common names aren’t simply adopted through frequent usage? In North America, common names for insects go through an application and approval process with the Entomological Society of America (ESA).

And last week, something major happened — for the first time ever, ESA rescinded two common names. Moving forward, the common names ‘gypsy moth’ and ‘gypsy ant’ are no longer acceptable because they contain a derogatory term to the Romani people.

“If people are feeling excluded because of what we call something, that’s not acceptable,” says Michelle Smith, ESA’s president. “We’re going to make changes to be a welcoming and inclusive society for all entomologists.” 

These common names won’t be the last to be changed. Through the Better Common Names Project, ESA is asking entomologists to help identify and select new names for species currently referred to by common names that contain derogative or inappropriate terms.

So, until a new common name is determined, Lymantria dispar should be referred to as just that. That, or one of the 4-letter-words many of us have been wanting to call them this whole time.

Written By

Kelly Oten, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDr. Kelly OtenAssistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Forest Health Call Dr. Kelly Email Dr. Kelly Forestry & Environmental Resources
NC State Extension, NC State University
Updated on Jul 12, 2021
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close
Scannable QR Code to Access Electronic Version