Illustration by Rebecca O'Connell // Ant head via Smithsonian FB page, Roosevelt thorax via Public Domain
Illustration by Rebecca O'Connell // Ant head via Smithsonian FB page, Roosevelt thorax via Public Domain

15 Bugs Named After Politicians

Illustration by Rebecca O'Connell // Ant head via Smithsonian FB page, Roosevelt thorax via Public Domain
Illustration by Rebecca O'Connell // Ant head via Smithsonian FB page, Roosevelt thorax via Public Domain

When it comes to honorific gestures made for politicians, getting a city named after you is probably at the top of the tribute hierarchy (hello, Washington, D.C.). International airports or aircraft carriers aren't too shabby, either, and any president worth his or her salt should have a few high schools thrown their way (good luck finding a Richard M. Nixon College Prep).

But where do bugs come in? Entomologists get to name their discoveries, and many have used the opportunity to give homage to political leaders. If you can't get an airport named after you, a slime-mold beetle is a pretty decent consolation prize.

1. LITURGUSA ALGOREI // AL GORE

This praying mantis discovered near the Amazon in Peru is named after Al Gore. The find—one of 19 new species of mantis—was announced in 2014 and named after the former vice president for his environmental work.

2. CALIGULA // GAIUS JULIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS (A.K.A. "CALIGULA")

This genus of moth found in Asia doesn't hold incest-rife orgies and rarely shows signs of clinical insanity, so naming it after the Roman emperor seems like an odd choice.

3. ANELOSIMUS NELSONI // NELSON MANDELA

This South African cobweb spider was named to honor the country's former president. It's part of a genus commonly found in America [PDF], though nelsoni is one of a bunch of new species that were discovered in Africa or Southeast Asia; others include Anelosimus biglebowski and Anelosimus dude—entomologists are big fans of the Coen brothers film, apparently.

4. LINCOLNA // ABRAHAM LINCOLN

This parasitic Australian wasp was discovered in 1940 and is named for the 16th president of the United States. A fitting tribute to the greatest leader in American history.

5. APTOSTICHUS BARACKOBAMAI // BARACK OBAMA

Auburn University entomologist Jason Bond discovered this new species of trapdoor spider in 2012 and named it after President Obama. "It’s difficult for me to envision a higher honor,” Bond told the Washington Post. "In science, there are few things that we do as scientists that has the permanency that taxonomy does.”

6. ALLENDIA CHILENSIS // SALVADORE ALLENDE

Allendia chilensis is a patronym for Salvadore Allende, the Chilean president who died during a 1973 coup. A ground beetle, this bug was first found in Chile in the 1970s.

7. AGRA SCHWARZENEGGERI // ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

Nit-pickers can argue Schwarzenegger was technically not yet a politician when this beetle was discovered in 2002 [PDF]—he was still a year away from winning a special election to become governor of California. But how could we leave out this species who earned its name because of its "markedly developed (biceps-like) middle femora"?

8. PHEIDOLE ROOSEVELTI // THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Pheidole roosevelti, or "Roosevelt's ant," was discovered in Fiji in 1921 by W.M. Mann. In his report [PDF], Mann says he named the species after "the late Col. Theodore Roosevelt," though its "feebly convex sides" are nothing like the stout former president.

9-12. HELLINSIA AGUILERAI, ALFAROI, MORENOI, AND SUCREI // JAIME ROLDOS AGUILERA, JOSÉ ELOY ALFARO DELGADO, GABRIEL GARCÍA MORENO, AND ANTONIO JOSÉ DE SUCRE

A slew of new moth species were found in Ecuador and classified in 2011 [PDF], and the scientists who discovered them gave each a title tied to the region's history: Hellinsia aguilerai is named for Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldos Aguilera, who died in a plane crash in 1981; H. alfaro is named after another Ecuadorian president, Jose Eloy Alfaro Delgado, who was assassinated in 1912; H. morenoi is for Gabriel García Moreno, assassinated in 1875; and H. sucrei is classified in honor of Antonio José de Sucre, the second president of Bolivia, cited in the entomologists' abstract as someone "crucial in achieving the freedom of several South American countries."

13-15. AGATHIDIUM BUSHI, CHENYI, AND RUMSFELDI // GEORGE W. BUSH, DICK CHENEY, AND DONALD RUMSFELD

Drawing by Frances Fawcett // Cornell.edu

These three species of slime-mold beetles were discovered in 2005 by entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who chose to name them after George W. Bush, his vice president, and his secretary of defense. The beetles feed on fungilike mold, and Wheeler wrote that he named them after the politicians because they "have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular." Bush called Wheeler to thank him, saying he was "honored."

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iStock
This Self-Cloning Tick is Terrorizing More States
iStock
iStock

Few arachnids are as demonized in the summer months as ticks, the parasitic little nuisances that can spread disease in humans and pets. That's not likely to change now that there's a exotic new species that can not only self-replicate, but is also poised to attack animals like a colony of swarming fire ants.

This super-tick is Haemaphysalis longicornis, or the longhorned tick, native to East Asia and imported to the U.S. by unknown means. The first North American sighting took place in August 2017 in New Jersey when a farmer walked into a county health office covered in nearly 1000 ticks after shearing a pet sheep that had been infested. The insect was then spotted in Virginia, West Virginia, and Arkansas, with caution advised in Maryland. As of this week, it’s now a confirmed resident of North Carolina, The Charlotte Observer reports.

H. longicornis invites more dread than a conventional tick for several reasons. It can “clone” itself, with females laying up to 2000 genetically identical eggs without any assistance from a male, a process called parthenogenesis. Reproduction is faster, with offspring appearing in just six months compared to two years for common deer ticks. It’s also an aggressive biter, nibbling on any animal flesh it can latch on to, and is able to transfer a host of diseases in the process—some of them fatal. In addition to Lyme, longhorned ticks can transmit the flu-like ehrlichiosis bacteria and the rare Powassan virus, which can cause brain inflammation.

The news isn’t much better for livestock. Given enough opportunity, the ticks can siphon enough blood from an animal to kill it, a process known as exsanguination. The attack can become so concentrated that pets have been spotted with ticks hanging from them like bunches of grapes.

New Jersey officials have confirmed the tick has survived the winter by burrowing underground, a somewhat ominous sign that the invasive species might be durable enough to become a widespread problem. Experts recommend taking all the regular precautions, including wearing long pants when outdoors, using repellent, and examining yourself and your pets for ticks. While the longhorned tick hadn’t yet displayed a taste for human flesh, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As for the sheep: following a chemical treatment, she made a full recovery.

[h/t Charlotte Observer]

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Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku
This Super-Stinger Wasp Was Just Discovered in the Amazon
Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku
Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku

Deserved or not, the Amazon has developed a reputation for hosting animals, insects, and other creatures that appear to exist solely to terrify humans. And everywhere in the world, you’ll find parasitic organisms that thrive when they siphon blood or other resources from hosts.

A new entrant has emerged in both of these charts: Calistoga crassicaudata, a wasp recently discovered in the Amazon that sports a stinger roughly half the length of its 9.8-millimeter-long body. The insect may as well come out of the workshop of Alien designer H.R. Giger: Its methodology is to impale prey with the stinger, paralyzing it, and then depositing eggs inside so they can hatch later. The hatching usually causes the host—typically a spider—to burst open and die in agony as C. crassicaudata laughs maniacally. Metaphorically speaking.

Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, made the discovery between the Andes and the Amazonian lowland rainforest and reported it in the journal Zootaxa. The new species appears to be amazing wasp experts by the sheer magnitude of its built-in spear, also called an ovipositor, that delivers both venom and the female's eggs.

"I have studied tropical parasitoid wasps for a long time, but I have never seen anything like it," entomologist and co-author Ilari E. Sääksjärvi said in a statement. "It looks like a fierce weapon."

The good news? It’s not really strong enough to pierce human skin, so should you find yourself in its vicinity, you probably don't need to worry. Instead, worry more about the common paper wasp, which has a barbed stinger, takes only 0.5 seconds to impale you, and can retain its stinger to continue its assault.

[h/t LiveScience]

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