The gypsy moth has been going by its mouthful of a scientific name — Lymantria dispar — since July, when scientists scrapped the insect’s derogatory common name and began weighing alternatives.
On Tuesday, the Entomological Society of America announced that its panel of experts had settled on a recommendation for a replacement moniker.
Meet the spongy moth.
The new handle (pending final approval) actually draws on a common name used elsewhere for the moth. In France and French-speaking Canada, Lymantria dispar is known as “spongieuse,” a reference to the moth’s sponge-like egg masses, the society said in a statement.
The decision to ditch gypsy moth (as well as gypsy ant) was made out of consideration for the Romani people, and the offensive connotations linked with the term “gypsy.”
Romani scholars were members of the working group of academics, researchers and forestry professionals who evaluated the hundreds of name proposals submitted to the Entomological Society. Spongy moth was chosen from a list of seven finalists, according to the society.
Assuming the name is formally adopted by the society’s governing board, “spongy moth” would become the standard in articles published in the society’s journals and other communications, and it would be used at society conferences and events. The society said it would encourage other organizations and individuals to transition to the new name.
It may have a new alias, but the spongy moth remains a destructive pest: Its larvae devour the leaves of trees and shrubs, depriving the plants of vital nutrients and energy. Over the course of more than a century, the spongy moth has defoliated 95 million acres of forest, and cyclical outbreaks continue to plague parts of North America.