Letter of Support for Entomological Society of America Naming Conventions

Support of the Entomological Society of America’s (ESA) Better Common Names project.
L. dispar caterpillar and pupa

In December 2021, the North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA) sent the following letter to national leaders:

On behalf of the North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA), we write to express our appreciation and support of the Entomological Society of America’s (ESA) Better Common Names project and its decision to remove the existing common names for the moth Lymantria dispar and the ant Aphaenogaster araneoides.

NAISMA is the largest organization dedicated to protecting North America’s natural heritage from the threat of invasive species. NAISMA’s mission is to support, promote, and empower invasive species prevention and management in North America. NAISMA advocates for aligning our work and support for invasive species managers alongside civil rights, challenging racist systems, and recruiting and mentoring people who are underrepresented in the natural and environmental resources professions.

After a careful review of and multiple committee discussions around the ramifications of changing established common names, NAISMA believes that benefits of changing inappropriate common names  outweigh the costs that come with the selection of and transition to a new common name. As first outlined by ESA, in the long-term, common names that are respectful, inclusive, accessible, and descriptive will advance the outreach and prevention needed to effectively manage invasive species in the North American landscape. NAISMA recognizes the work it will take to update government ​​databases, websites, outreach materials, and print publications. Our association appreciates this administration’s support for environmental justice, and would like to contribute to further discussion of the process of rolling out changes to problematic common names.

The process outlined by ESA is a durable, community-based, and translatable process that could — and should — apply to all taxa. In the case of entomology, the ESA stands as a central naming authority, and rightfully has led the name-change movement within its field. For taxonomies in which there is no central naming authority, NAISMA advocates for the following: 

  • Agencies most relevant to a given taxa will collaborate with stakeholders to establish systems and processes similar to those outlined in the Better Common Names Project.
  • Agencies collaborate with NAISMA when discussion pertains to an invasive species.
  • NAISMA, NISC, USDA, and DOI consults with Canadian and Mexican agencies and/or associations when considering name changes to coordinate North American approaches to common names when feasible.
  • Authoritative databases and communications must be harmonized, and transition plans for new common name uptake should be built into the process.

Thank you for your attention to this issue. We appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts on better common names.

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