Bug Names: How We Determine What To Call Bugs
If you are anything like us, you may find yourself wondering things like why ladybugs are called ladybugs when they are not all ladies. There are many insects out there with unique monikers, and sometimes the story behind those bug names is quite interesting. At least we think so. Below is a list of several different insects and how they got their strange names.
We could not mention these in the intro and not start off our list with them. Their name is based on a legend from the Middle Ages. It seems there was a swarm of insects going around destroying crops in Europe. The local farmers, fearing for their lives and livelihoods, prayed to the Virgin Mary for assistance. Shortly thereafter a new bug came to town and ate the offending insects. These new bugs were named in the Virgin Mary’s honor as “Our Lady’s Bugs” which was later shortened to just ladybugs.
One of the more unpleasant sounding insect names, earwigs have an unpleasant reputation to match. There is a rumor that earwigs are so called because they burrow into human ear canals to lay their eggs. This, thank goodness, is pure myth. Earwigs got their name from Old English ear wicga which roughly means “ear wiggler,” so it seems the bad reputation has been around for quite some time. Earwigs are actually pretty harmless to humans. They prefer to prey on decaying plants or other insects.
Apt Bug Names, Dragonflies
No, these flying bugs are not descended from dragons. We wish that were the case, because how cool would that be? Instead, their name comes from an old Romanian fairytale. In the story, the Devil himself turned a horse into a giant flying insect. This insect was aptly named The Devil’s Horse. Through some interesting Romanian to English translation shenanigans (Drac is Romanian for Devil) we got the name dragonfly.
Returning to the Middle Ages, our graceful friends, the butterflies, have a few different name origins, but they are fairly closely related. It seems in Germany in the Middle Ages, butterflies wer thought to steal milk and butter. In fact, their nicknames at the time were “botterlicker” or “milchdieb” which mean “butter-licker” or “milk-thief”, respectively. The second origin story comes from Old Dutch. Apparently the first poop a butterfly does after exiting the chrysalis is similar in appearance to butter. For this reason, these creatures were named “boterschitje” or “butter-poop.” We think Butterfly is definitely an upgrade.
Not just a fun art project or children’s song, doodlebugs are also a type of insect. Small grayish or brownish in color, these bugs resemble something out of a science fiction film. Similar to butterflies, they cocoon themselves and transform into a flying insect that resembles a damsel fly. Before that, however, they use poison-dart type projectiles that come from their jaws to inject prey to feed on. Their name comes from the long, winding paths they cut in the dirt while they search for their next meal.
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