June 25th, 2007

Those Latin Names
By James Castwell


Deftly I positioned the glass jar under the flower and swiftly covered its top with the lid. Inside growling and buzzing were any number of 'mad as heck' bees. We all did it back in those days, the mid forties. Mostly we just caught bees but sometimes other bugs would fall prey and might even end up dried with a pin holding them to the inside of a cigar-box bug collection. Running like 'you know what' when we took the cover off and let them free was an event to be remembered as well. I caught a Praying Mantis once I think, maybe it was just a Walking stick, not sure now. I am sure though that I have always held a keen interest in insects, or back then, bugs.

A typical boy I suppose and did boy stuff while growing up. Fishing opened up a new world too. Collecting was a problem, but various tanks of tropical fish over the years did the job. In time I also used the tanks for raising insects though. Heck, I even took a year of biology in college.

For some reason when I really got into fly fishing I wanted to learn all about the food the trout ate, namely, of course, the bugs. I caught them by every method legal and imaginable and often took them home and tried to raise them to another stage in their lives.

Books started to become a requirement for further investigation. I would not be satisfied with worthless names used by almost everyone else. Oh no, not me, I wanted to get it right, be exact, learn all the names and how to identify each. More books, more captives, more tanks to raise them in.

Then pictures. Oh yes, not happy with just trying to learn all of the unpronounceable names, I felt I needed to take their pictures too. I did and got some dandy ones, even made the cover of one of the big time slick magazines once. Some of my fishing buddies thought I was a bit nuts for doing all this and perhaps I was, but I enjoyed it and continued on with it for years.

March Brown, Yellow Sally or Brown Drake were names you never heard from me. I could tell you the 'real' names of almost any insect found on the streams I fished. It helped a lot too having a fishing buddy who was nuts as I. He actually had a degree in bugs and such, trained naturalist. Often he would be the one to key out the last identifying thing that named an insect. It was neat having him help as he did but sometimes it got a little annoying. Not in a bad way, just that he always had all the correct names and information, I always came in second. Sometimes I was dead wrong too.

When he would put some scientific name on a darn little butterfly that I would call a 'Meadow Skipper' it seemed to take a bit of the magic from the moment but I could handle it. There was the time he explained pointedly that the whole stringer of frogs I had captured so I could have a dinner of legs, were not frogs but were for sure toads. That got me a bit, but I ate them any how.

Final devastation came when we started to really get into identifying some mayflies. The charts, and books and scientific keys did not match. They did not agree. That just could not be. This was science. They had to agree. Wrong again Jim.

"Lumper's and Splitter's" was the term he used and with that my education either started or ended, I'm still not sure. One thing though, it changed. No longer could I rest assured that the name I was using for an insect was the right one. Oh, it might be right for today, but what about tomorrow?

It seems these science guys are always messing with the status quo, especially the Latin names of things. They will take a bug from one group and declare it is now in a different group. What the heck, let's give it a new name too. You may recall just lately, the re-doing of the (ex) Planet Pluto, or star, or what the devil it might be called today, or perhaps next week. Those guys can't leave stuff alone.

So, if you find it interesting and fun and rewarding and it blows the socks off your buddies and even out and out strangers, go for it. But remember, don't get too pumped up with all that knowledge. A little is a dangerous thing; the danger is, the lumper's and splitter's might getcha. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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