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KonchuNovember 27th, 2006, 9:36 am
Site Editor

Posts: 505
Following the "cahill" thread from elsewhere, I thought I'd start a new one.

Do you think that some attempt should be made at a standardization of mayfly common names? Or should they be allowed to remain regional?
TroutnutNovember 27th, 2006, 11:16 am
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
I don't think common names should be standardized, at least not in the scientific sense as was done with stoneflies.

I like the idea of coordinating which common names we use for which species, but I don't think that can be accomplished by declaring standards.

I fear that a scientific attempt at standardized common names would involve an unambiguous, unique name for each species. So it would be throwing hundreds or thousands of new names into the already crowded and confusing pool. That's the last thing we need.

Many authors have already tried to do that in recent books by modifying the real common names to set two species apart: "Large Eastern Sulphur" or "Small Eastern Sulphur," for example. Nobody ever picks up a mayfly on the stream and says, "by golly, that's a Small Eastern Sulphur!" They just say "Sulphur" or "dorothea." And that's all we need. We have one easy, short common name everybody understands, and one Latin name to identify the species uniquely. There's no need for a long, cumbersome common name to identify the species uniquely, unless one is both obsessed with species detail and fanatically Latinophobic. If such an angler exists, I have not met him.

I've tried to go strongly in the opposite direction on this site and label each taxon with the common name most often spoken on the stream. (That's a subjective and localized judgement and I'm not the best one to make it, but I've done what I can.) I hope that helps to gradually consolidate the lexicon.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
GONZONovember 27th, 2006, 2:11 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

I doubt that it really matters. It is probably inevitable that as a group of critters receives scientific scrutiny some degree of standardization will occur. That doesn't necessarily influence common usage. The stonefly names are a case in point. They won't appear in many angling discussions because it requires identification to genus or species levels in order to apply them. Few anglers go to this trouble or want to.

Some common names have a charm and history that would be lost if more rigid standards of scientific naming were applied across the board. And some are already fairly specific to either genus or species--names like Hendrikson, Quill Gordon, and March Brown have acquired a fairly specific meaning over time, even though the basis is unscientific. Most of the confusion occurs with vague catch-all names like Cahill, Sulphur, and the ultimate catch-all, Blue-Winged Olive. Nevertheless, these names are so well established that it is unlikely anyone will be able to supplant them with more specific names in the near term. And there will probably always be the "them yeller bugs" school of identification. Specificity in angling terminology is usually driven by what an angler needs or wants to know.
KonchuNovember 28th, 2006, 8:33 am
Site Editor

Posts: 505
"Specificity in angling terminology is usually driven by what an angler needs or wants to know."

...or for that matter what the fish needs to know.

Mmm. Yeller bug = tasty. Chomp.


Ah, I shall compare the nutritional values of Stenacron interpunctatum and S. pallidum and contrast the aesthetics of their external morphology before making a selective trophic decision.

Yeller bug wins every time!
GONZONovember 28th, 2006, 1:39 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

I have encountered a few fish that appeared to be making the latter gastronomic assessment rather than the former--but that is always the way it seems when something about the fly or its presentation doesn't quite match what the fish needs to see. We surely obssess over some of the details to a much greater degree than most fish, but that is not unusual among fanatical devotees of any sport.

In my role as an Examiner for the Professional Ski Instructors of America, I've witnessed many similar examples among ski-addicts. Once, while skiing at Killington during Examiner Training, a bunch of us were gathered on the slope discussing the finer points of how a wedge turn should be demonstrated. (A wedge turn is the modern nomenclature for the elementary maneuver known to many as a snowplow turn.) The discussion was becoming quite complex and even a little heated when my fellow Examiner, Paul Brown, offered this observation: "I'm sure it's a lot simpler than we can make it!" :)
KonchuNovember 28th, 2006, 6:13 pm
Site Editor

Posts: 505

So...standardized common names for mayflies probably aren't necessary. Anybody disagree?
TaxonNovember 28th, 2006, 9:58 pm
Site Editor
Royse City, TX

Posts: 1348
Do you think that some attempt should be made at a standardization of mayfly common names? Or should they be allowed to remain regional?


It seems to me that standardizing something may be the easy part. Achieving widespread acceptance of that standard is somewhat more difficult. One example which comes to mind, is the effort to convert USA to the metric system of measures. I suspect attempting to standard common names for mayflies, while many fly fishers are hard pressed to understand the difference between "common names" for the actual insect, and "pattern names" for the imitations, is unlikely to achieve much acceptance. On the other hand, good ideas are often greeted with skepticism, so who knows.
Best regards,
Roger Rohrbeck
LittleJNovember 29th, 2006, 5:24 pm
Hollidaysburg Pa

Posts: 251
I think the problem isn't insect classification(common or scientific) it's in the patterns. To often anglers (myself i learned in the cahills post) learn patterns first then try to decipher what insect works for the pattern. Thus creating 10 million common names. If you reversed the order and learned your bugs first(scientific names) than found a pattern to suit your situation the problem would be eliminated. Maybe I'm being an idealist but i don't see the sense in creating two standards. Much like you can chose to either give directions to your house by saying "turn left at the brick house" or you can give a street name, both work, but one is standard and less confusing in my opinion.
KonchuNovember 30th, 2006, 8:52 am
Site Editor

Posts: 505
LittleJ, your distinction between the patterns and the bugs is an important one.

A standardized set of common names could be created for the actual mayflies that wouldn't impact flyfishers. But then, is this necessary, and if so, who for?
TroutnutNovember 30th, 2006, 9:48 am
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
A standardized set of common names could be created for the actual mayflies that wouldn't impact flyfishers. But then, is this necessary, and if so, who for?

Exactly. Entomologists seem to be fine with the scientific names, and any attempt to standardize common names would impact anglers, even if it wasn't intended to. Some faction of anglers would almost certainly try to use them, adding another confusing layer to the mix.

Another down side is that it would take me days to enter them all into this website's database and link them up with the appropriate species!
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
KonchuNovember 30th, 2006, 6:12 pm
Site Editor

Posts: 505
But with common names, we'd all know how to pronounce them, or at least agree to an acceptable range. (I've been lurking in the "latin names of bugs" thread.

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