As well as the more well-known EntoPub*, the Harper Adams entomologists also indulge in Entolunch**, when we gather in one of our larger offices to eat our packed lunches and keep up to date with what we are doing, covering research, teaching and day-to-day life. This is not because we are anti-social or are averse to mixing with other disciplines, but because our offices are almost 500 m away from the Staff Common Room and nearest food outlet. Last week our conversation turned to the Thysanoptera, more commonly known as thrips or thunder bugs.
Some fine examples of thrips, including the common thunder bug.
According to Lewis (1997) they were first described by DeGeer in 1744 under the name Physapus, but in 1758, Linneaus, ignoring this, placed the then four known species in a genus Thrips, later elevated to Order by Haliday in 1836. Why Linneaus decided to call them thrips is a bit of a mystery, as according to the Oxford English Dictionary, thrips is derived from the Latin via Greek, meaning woodworm!
Thrips are tiny little insects, the giants among them, (mainly tropical) can reach lengths of up to 15 mm but most are round about 1-2 mm long (Kirk, 1996; Moritz, 1997). Although they are not bugs, their feeding process can be described as “piercing-sucking or punch and suck” (Kirk, 1997).
There are about 8000 species of thrips worldwide (Lewis, 1997), although probably less than 200 in the UK (Kirk, 1996). Although many are important plant pests (Lewis, 1997), they can also be pollinators and fungivores (Kirk, 1996) or even very effective biological control agents (Gilstrap, 1995). Some are gall-formers, and these, like some galling aphids, also have fights to the death with their rivals (Crespi, 1988). All in all, almost as wonderful as aphids 🙂
But I digress, our conversation that lunchtime was not about the biology of thrips, but about the singularity (or plurality) of their name. Thrips are (in)famous for being like sheep, they are thrips whether you are speaking of one or of many, which has, and does, cause some debate among entomologists and others.
We quite liked thripses although it does conjure visions of Gollum and his precious.
Who knew that Gollum was an entomologist?
Intrigued by the linguistic puzzle of thrips I wondered what it was in other languages. Using Google Translate, and possibly risking a Tolkienesque mistranslation, I found that in most cases, even French, it was boringly enough, thrips.
There were some languages where thrips was not thrips, but not many:
Catalan els trips
Perhaps my favourite was the Afrikaans, blaaspootjies. On breaking it down into parts it turns out that blaas means bladder and pootjies, legs, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
Bengali, Chinese and Japanese, were quite picturesque.
Bengali থ্রিপস্ (thripas)
Chinese 牧草虫 (mùcǎo chóng)
Japanese アザミウマ (azamiuma)
But the most ornate was Tamil
Which is quite a long word for such small insects, but very pretty all the same. If anyone has any more suggestions for the naming of thrips, do feel free to comment.
Crespi, B.J. (1988) Risks and benefits of lethal male fighting in the colonial, polygynous thrips Hoplothrips karnyi (Insecta: Thysanoptera). Behavorial Ecology & Sociobiology, 22, 293-301.
Gilstrap, F.E. (1995) Six-spotted thrips: a gift from nature that controls spider mites. [In] Thrips Biology and Management, pp 305-316, (ed. B.L. Parker, M. Skinner & T. Lewis), Plenum Press, New York.
Kirk, W.D.J. (1996) Thrips, Naturalist’s Handbooks, Richmond Publishing Co. Ltd., Slough UK. [A very nice and simple introduction to the wonderful world of thrips]
Kirk, W.D.J. (1997) Feeding, [In] Thrips as Crop Pests, pp 119-174 (ed T Lewis), CAB International, Wallingford Oxford
Lewis, T. (1997) Pest thrips in perspective, [In] Thrips as Crop Pests, pp 1-13 (ed T Lewis), CAB International, Wallingford Oxford
Moritz, G. (1997) Structure, growth and development. [In] Thrips as Crop Pests, pp 15-63 (ed T Lewis), CAB International, Wallingford Oxford
Slapped wrist for me – Elina Mäntylä has pointed out that in Finnish, thrips is ripsiäinen, probably to do with the wing structure. I should have known that having lived and worked in Finland at the Pest Investigation Department. interestingly, Google Translate thinks it is Thrips in Finnish – but if you do Finnish to English it does indeed translate ripsiäinen to thrips.
*EntoPub Drinks and a meal in a local hostelry organised by one of the Harper Adams Entomologists but not confined solely to entomologists. We do like to mix with non-entomologists occasionally 🙂 Held at approximately 10 day intervals.
**EntoLunch A communal occasion when the Harper Adams entomologists get together in office AY02 and eat their packed lunches whilst chatting, usually with some entomological connection. Again this is not entirely confined to entomologists, we are usually joined by a couple of soil and water scientists who share our exile on the edge of the campus 🙂 A daily event during the working week.