Scientific names

The scientific name of a species is governed by internationally accepted rules that determine what the name is and insure that each species has only one. Thus scientific names are the same in every locality and in every language. Each scientific name of a species is two words (a binomen)—the first is the name of the genus to which the species is assigned, the second is the specific name. The genus name is capitalized, the specific name is not, and both are printed in italics. For example, the scientific name of the southeastern field cricket is Gryllus rubens. In some technical writing the surname of the person who originally described the species, the "author," is written after the binomen—Gryllus rubens Scudder. The author's name is put in parentheses if the species was described as belonging to a genus other than the one to which it is now assigned—Gryllus fultoni (Alexander). Author's names for all species treated here are given in the lists of species and the date of the original description is given on the home page for each species—Gryllus rubens Scudder 1902.

Scientific names must be used in technical literature. Taxonomists find them convenient to use even in conversation, although different pronunciations sometimes cause confusion. Biology texts generally declare that scientific names, in contrast to common names, are stable or unchanging. For various reasons this has not been true for insects. One reason is that the classification of insect species is continually being refined and improved, and whenever a species is assigned to a new or different genus, its scientific name changes. For example, until l970, l6 species of U.S. ground crickets (Nemobiinae) were classified as belonging to the genus Nemobius. In that year the classification was revised and no U.S. species was left in Nemobius. The scientific names of one-sixth of the species of crickets then known to occur in the U.S. were thereby changed. The advantage of scientific names is less their stability than that they are the same no matter what the user's language and that changes in them are governed, in principle, by an internationally adopted Code.

Scientific names that were widely used for North American singing insects but have since been discarded because of provisions in the Code are listed in Synonyms.

Common names

We have assigned English or "common" names to many of the species of North American singing insects. These names provide names that can be used to converse with English speaking persons who are not comfortable with using the strange-sounding scientific names used by taxonomists. Such persons may include friends and relatives and, sometimes importantly, reporters. If you have learned the common field crickets in the Northeast as Gryllus pennsylvanicus and Gryllus veletis, you will nonetheless need to know, or coin, other names when you talk about these crickets to a parent, teacher, or TV reporter.

Because few of our common names for singing insects are in common use, they might be more properly termed vernacular names. The vernacular names we propose may save you from having to coin such names on your own, but they are in no way "official"—they do not dictate what vernacular name you should use if another is better known or more apt for a particular circumstance. For example, a local name for Scapteriscus vicinus (=tawny mole cricket) in south Georgia is "ground puppy." That might be the best name to use when talking to persons in that region, but you should also mention that said puppy is actually a cricket that looks like a mole (a "mole cricket") and that it is tan beneath, rather than gray like other mole crickets.

Once we had decided that we should assign vernacular names, we were faced with the problem of deciding which of the previously proposed names to use and of coining new ones where no appropriate ones had been proposed. Many of the names selected were originally proposed in Orthoptera of Northeastern America (Blatchley 1920) or Singing Insects of Michigan (Alexander et al. 1972). A few came from Common Names of Insects & Related Organisms and others were coined using principles listed there (Stoetzel 1989). Ideally vernacular names should be brief and descriptive. The least descriptive ones are often translations of scientific names, but they help bridge the gap between the two modes of nomenclature. For example, the "Texas field cricket" (Gryllus texensis) occurs in at least eight states other than Texas.