BRIDGEPORT, Conn. The Entomological Society of America (ESA) has more than 7,000 members who share a passion for insect science, so when Connecticut Beardsley’s Zoo Educator Andrew Connolly reached out to their Governing Board with a request to apply a common name to an unnamed cockroach, they wanted to know more. The ESA Common Names database is an essential reference for anyone who works with insects. It includes more than 2,000 common names and is searchable by common name, scientific name, author, order, family, genus, and species.
It was while researching the characteristics of the Zoo’s Trinidad Cave Cockroach that Connolly became convinced that he was looking at something very similar to the Trinidad Cave species, but there were some odd differences. Specifically, the physical characteristics of the cockroach, such as coloration and wing transparency, did not match what was known for the Trinidad Cave Cockroach. What Connolly saw was more characteristic of a spotted pattern, leading him to look more closely.
Connolly joined forces with another Zoo Educator, Chrissy Shore, who had taken care of the Zoo’s cockroaches for the past several years. She agreed that they were possibly looking at another species. This roach had a scientific name, they discovered, but was referred to by a number of common names at zoological facilities around the country. This can create confusion in properly identifying the insect, so Connolly reached out to a former professor at Ohio University, Becca Brodie, Ph.D., for assistance.
Brodie directed Connolly to the ESA, with the information that if his insect truly did not have a common name, he could suggest one. After weeks of research, including measuring the roach and reading scientific papers (even those written in Latin by Carl Linnaeus from the 18th century), Connolly consulted with colleagues across the country. He spoke with entomologists and insect care staff at the Topeka Zoo, the entomological team at National Geographic’s Photo Ark by Joel Sartore, and even the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He found that this cockroach without a common name was referred to by a number of monikers, varieties of “peppered cockroach” among them.
Eight months after his search for the mystery cockroach began, Connolly’s research was sent to the ESA’s Governing Board, whose next step was to submit Connolly’s suggested name proposal for a member review. On June 21, Connolly received a response: The ESA Governing Board had accepted Connolly’s proposal to establish “Peppered Cockroach” as the official common name for the Archimandrita tessellata. The Peppered Cockroach now has a place in the ESA’s Common Names database.
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s Education Curator Jim Knox said, “This was a very significant undertaking as using a common name among researchers and within the zoological and scientific community ensures that researchers are studying and discussing the same insect. Providing an agreed-upon common name within the scientific insect community is a first for an educator at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. This is an impressive achievement, and we couldn’t be prouder of Andrew!”
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