It is probably safe to say that very few people have ever heard of a termite species known as Nasutitermes corniger. Given the recent news stories concerning this termite species, it may be wise for Americans to familiarize themselves with this particular termites species, especially Americans living in the Gulf Coast states. The non-native Nasutitermes corniger termite species most likely arrived in America on a cruise ship shortly before it was discovered in Dania Beach, Florida in 2001. This termite species is now invasive in the state of Florida. The N. coringer species is considered by some experts to be the most damaging termite species in the world to both the environment and manmade structures. State pest control professionals are working diligently to contain the spread of these voracious termites in Dania Beach. The media has referred to this problematic invasive termite species by its nickname, the “conehead termite.” This particular name may sound strange, but it is an understandable moniker given the species oddly shaped and cone-like head. This termite species used to be known by another name, but entomologists worked hard to have the name changed. In fact, the name change was so important to the entomology community that a group of scientists gathered in order to officially request that the Entomological Society of America allow the termite species’ name to be changed. Surprisingly, more scientists than you would think fought hard for the “conehead” name.
Since conehead termite activity is a concern to many property developers, environmentalists, and scientists it has become a much talked about species in Florida. Given the threat that this species poses to residents of Florida, entomologists pushed for an easy to learn nickname that anyone could remember. Before the conehead termite earned its current nickname it was known as the “tree termite”. Since conehead termites are known for feeding on living trees, this name seemed reasonable at first. However, this name was misleading as conehead termites do not nest on tree branches. Eventually, experts succeeded in having the species name changed to reflect its physical features. The experts also noted the name’s relation to the famous Saturday Night Live skit, which they claimed fit the termite species well since both the termites and the characters in the skit are considered “exotics”.
Have you ever heard of an insect species’ nickname that was more memorable than “conehead termites”?