• Experts removed the common names "gypsy moth" and "gypsy ant"
  • The names are said to contain a derogatory term for Romani people
  • It's part of the effort to replace inappropriate or offensive common names of insects

Experts are dropping recognized common names of insects that are deemed derogatory or offensive, including "gypsy moth" and "gypsy ant."

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) announced in a statement on July 7 that it has removed the names "gypsy moth" and "gypsy ant" in its Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms List. According to the organization, the move is a part of its efforts to "review and replace" common insect names that are deemed "inappropriate or offensive."

"It's an ethnic slur, to begin with, that's been rejected by the Romani people a long time ago," ESA President Michelle S. Smith said as per "Second, nobody wants to be associated with a harmful invasive pest."

Previously, the organization only changed names if they were scientifically inaccurate, the outlet noted. Under its Better Common Names Project, the ESA is seeking community input to help identify and suggest alternative names for insects with common names that "perpetuate negative ethnic or racial stereotypes."

"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 explained. "That's why we're working to ensure all ESA-approved insect common names meet our standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion."

Apart from names that have derogatory terms, other "problematic" common names include ones for invasive species that have "inappropriate geographic references" and names that disregard what the creatures are called by the native communities.

The organization cited three ways people can help make the change: by aiding them to identify common insect names that should be changed, volunteering to be in a working group to suggest a new name and showing one's support for the project.

This is not the first time that experts have changed commonly known names of animals or even celestial objects deemed offensive. Even 20 years ago, the American Fisheries Society renamed the jewfish to be the goliath grouper, said.

In 2020, NASA also announced that it would reevaluate the names of cosmic objects that have insensitive or harmful nicknames such as the "Eskimo Nebula" and the "Siamese Twins Galaxy."

Gypsy Moths
Image: An adult specimen of what is now known as the "spongy moth." The new name is adopted in March 2022 to replace its former, derogatory common name. John H. Ghent and Manfred Mielke/USDA Forest Service/