Tag Archives: Taxonomy fail

June Morphology Fail

28 Jun

Here’s another Taxonomy Morphology Fail for your edification and/or entertainment.  See if you can spot this one.

I present:

Pedipalps are not, as it would happen, gonads.  In male spiders these modified mouthparts* are sometimes called “boxing gloves.”  While they are used to transfer sperm from the male spider’s reproductive organs to the female’s, they are not in any way involved with sperm production.

I would expand upon the boxing glove sperm delivery analogy but it gets unsettlingly pornographic very quickly.

via Discovery News

*To be more accurate pedipalps are probably homologous to crustaceans’ second pair of antennae.

May Taxonomy Fail: Insect Tattoos

24 May
insect tattoo art book

And when they say “insect” they mean…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a good taxonomy/morphology fail.  This one’s got a little of both.

A friend gave me this wonderful little booklet of temporary “insect tattoos” a few months back, and my fellow entomology graduate students and I had a lot of fun picking out which tattoo best suited each of us.

As you can see from the cover, this collection played fast and loose with the definition of “insect.”  (Wait, scorpions are insects, right?)

Something is awry with this spider.

Something is awry with this spider.

My personal favorite was the tarantula.  At least, I’m assuming that’s what it was.  You can see the artist has made the common mistake of counting the pedipalps (essentially a leggy sort of mouthpart) as a pair of legs.  This would-be arachnid has, not eight, but six legs.   It seemed appropriate.

As an alternative theory, perhaps they were trying a little too hard to fit the spider into the “insect tattoo” classification.

I wore it with pride.

I wore it with pride.


October Taxonomy Fail

31 Oct

No new posts lately because my computer recently came down with a spontaneous and catastrophic case of fail.  I managed to salvage most of my files, but I am still trying to get settled into the new computer and replace various important missing programs, like Word and Photoshop and all programs. Luckily, I am a graduate student, so I have tons of free time and spare cash to dedicate to this task.  (Only one of three statements in that last sentence was true.)

For this month’s Taxonomy Fail, and in honor of Halloween, we have a pretty awesome BBC clip on velvet worms.  I’ve seen this Life in the Undergrowth video about a million times* because we show it to the 201 students and I highly recommend it.  First enjoy the video, then see if you can spot the fail:

(You may need to click over to Youtube to get the video to load properly.)

…Did you catch it?  “This cricket has huge eyes, but it’s difficult to see what’s going on around it.”

At 1:03 (Grasshopper):

A screen cap of BBC's misidentified grasshopper "cricket"

Who are you calling a cricket?

At 1:26 (Cricket/Katydid):

a screen cap of the cricket in BBC's life in the undergrowth

I feel like a brand new bug.


*Where 1 million = 9.

June Taxonomy Fail

29 Jun

Here’s another Taxonomy Fail for your edification and/or entertainment.  I’m not sure who first mislabeled (or at least, mis-described) this image, but it pulls up on a number of blogs and sites with the erroneous story attached.

I present:

“Mantis Cannibalism Eating Mate”

…she’s eating a grasshopper.  They *are* bother orthopteroids, but I don’t think it counts.

via Web Ecoist: Three Mate-Eating Animals

May Taxonomy Fail: Everybody wants to be an ant

28 May

Here’s a fun one for my bug blooper series of mislabeled and misidentified bugs from around the interwebs.

Drumroll, please….

“Fire Ant”


This is a very cool one.  Take a close look, because I love these little guys.  This is not a fire ant.  And it’s not an ant.  This is a nifty little ant-mimicking spider.

Some very cool ecology here.  Ant mimicry is fairly widespread in the arthropod world.  In some cases it allows predators to blend in with ants–either to steal their prey or assasinate and devour the ants themselves.  In many cases, however, this mimicry serves a defensive purpose.  When you’re a centimeter long, looking like an ant makes you a bad ass.  For example, check out this ant-mimicking mantis nymph:

Nobody’s messing with him.  For more great photos check out  Up Close With Nature’s  excellent post on ant mimicry.


“Fire ant” spider via Connemara Conservancy Meadow Tour Guide

April Taxonomy Fail: The Naming of Pests

30 Apr

I run across so many insect bloopers and taxonomy fails I thought I’d start a little running feature on them to go with my ever enlarging file of Things That Are Not Fire Ants.  I’m thinking monthly?  Biweekly?  Whenever I feel like it?  We’ll see.

Anyway, today’s little gem is brought to you by Aspect Home & Pest, who really ought to know better.  I present to you:


“But wait!” you say.  “Those are ticks. They are eight-legged dorsoventrally flattened blood-sucking arachnids.”

Yes.  Yes, they are.

But keep on scrolling down the page.  I present to you:


“Um,” you say.  “Those are still ticks.  Fleas are six-legged laterally flattened blood-sucking insects.”

That is also true.


Taxonomy Fail: When is a roach not a roach?

12 Aug
Darkling beetle incorrectly identified as polyphaga cockroach.

A polyphaga cockroach, labeled with a photo of a darkling beetle.

I found these ‘Real Bugs’ lucite-encased specimens for sale a local grocery store.  They’re pretty nice display items, and I’m actually kind of in love with the included collector’s cards which include trivia along the lines of “millipedes can have thousands of legs.”  Above you can see the polyphaga cockroach, whose trading card inexplicably showcases a photo of a darkling beetle.  Quick, someone calculate the taxonomy fail index.

I also love that they’ve not only hyped up the cards with “speed,” “size,” and “gross factor” ratings, but also “DEADLINESS.”  This is kind of vaguely plausible for the centipede and “giant bee,” but what about the long-horned beetle? (Deadliness: THREE.)  Frankly, I can’t wait to get my hands on the whole set.

Things That Are Not Fire Ants

6 Dec


(Updated 6/20/17)

The picture below started this post.  It is a picture that shows up prominently high on a google image search for ‘fire ant.’  It is also, very clearly, not a fire ant.

Frontline's Not a Fire Ant

Not A Fire Ant

Granted, I spend an unhealthy amount of time getting stung by researching fire ants, and might be presumed to be a bit more familiar with fire ants than the layperson.  However, the people who oh-so-proudly and prominently displayed this picture next to a guide for identifying and controlling fire ants were a pest control company, and one could wish that these people would also be a bit more familiar with fire ants than the layperson, particularly as they have taken it upon themselves to educate the public.

I tested my theory that this was clearly not a fire ant by showing it to a non-ant-person, Collin McMichael, a labmate of mine who works on caterpillars and aphids and happened to wander into the room at the right moment.  “That’s not a fire ant,” he said.

identifying fire ants

Here’s another example:

One of these things is not like the others.

(Not-a-fire-ant brought to you by Pest Mall.  Is-a-fire-ant via Fischer Environmental.  Thumbs up, Fischer!)

So, I present to you, my collection of ‘Things That Are Not Fire Ants’, as brought to you by the pest control companies of America.

(If you’d like some tips for identifying fire ants, look for a 2-segmented pedicel–the “waist” of the ant–and 10 segmented antennae, the last two segments of which are slightly enlarged to form a club.  Their relatively small eyes also set them apart from many of the ants on this page.  Also make sure it’s an ant.)

34. Bugsperts Pest Control


33.  Structural Termite & Pest Control (this one’s a twofer! neither the big ants nor the little ant are fire ants!)


Bonus: These are probably not fire ant nest mounds, since the funnel shape is acharacteristic, and more common in other genera such as odorous house ants and pyramid ants.  Fire ant mounds will usually be rounded (soil & weather permitting) since they build tunnels up into the mound itself to use for thermoregulating their brood.


32. StopPestInfo


31. PestWiki


30. Mosquito Squad


29. Spencer Pest Control


28. ThoughtCo “How To Identify Fire Ants:  Are Your Ants Really Fire Ants?”



27. Terminix



26. Healthline


25. Terro


24. Damn Bugs LLC  (this one’s tricky – note the spikes on the back of the gaster and the lack of the 2 segmented antennal club)


23. Noosa Pest Control


22. Heron Lawn & Pest Control

Heron Lawn and Pest's Not-a-Fire-Ant

21. Florida Lawncare and  Rove Pest Control – Nashville

Florida Lawncare's Not A Fire Ant

20 & 19.  Green Pest Services

Green Pest Service's Not-a-Fire-Ant


See also below, this company has about four different ants pictured as “fire ants.”  It’s impressive.  Also, since these are from a list of “common pests of Long Island” and there are no fire ants in New York I really just have no idea what they’re talking about.  I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and generously assume they’re using “fire ant” to refer to a whole different type of ant all together (or, you know, four different types) but the biological description is pretty clearly trying to describe S. invicta.

18. Dayton’s Pest Control and  Green Pest Services (again!)

Dayton's Pest Control's Not-a-Fire-Ant

17. Fireantswers

Fireantswer's Not-a-fire-ant

16 & 15. Clark’s Pest Control (a two-fer!) and  Innovative Pest Control

Clark's Pest Control's Not-a-fire-ant

Clark's Pest Control's Not-a-fire-ant 2

14. Sterling Pest Control and Technical Pest Services – Houston

Sterling Pest Control's Not A Fire Ant

13.  Falcon’s Pest Control

12. Culpepper Pest Control and Advanced Pest & Weed Management

Culpepper Pest Control's Not-a-fire-ant

11. Grandma’s Home Remedies

10. Barrier Termite & Pest Technologies

Barrier Termite & Pest Technologies Not-a-fire-ant

9. Arista Pest Solutions and  Peckitt Pest Solutions and  A-Zap Pest Control and  Pest Patrol Pest Control

Arista Pest Solution's Not-a-fire-ant

Plus, special mention to non-pest control company, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

8. EnviroCon Termite & Pest

Envirocon Termite & Pest's Not-a-fire-ant

7. Frontline Pest Control and Aspect Home & Pest and  Orlando Pest Control and  Home Protection Pest Control

Frontline's Not a Fire Ant

See also: “This is not a harvester ant” and “This is not an Argentine ant.”

(Aspect has not only borrowed most of its incorrect images from Frontline, but they have also used the same image twice for ticks and fleas.)

6. Adam’s Exterminators

Adam's Exterminators' Not A Fire Ant

5. Lenny’s Pest Control and  John Moore Services and Rush Termite & Pest Control

Lenny's Pest Control's Not a Fire Ant

4. Treasure Coast Pest Control and Mist Pro Outdoor Insect Control

Not A Fire Ant by MistPro and Treasure Coast

3. Raleigh Pest Control

Raleigh Pest Control's Not-a-Fire Ant

2. ESI Oscala

ESI Oscala's Not-a-fire-ant

1. (And my personal favorite) PestMall

Pest Mall's Not-A-Fire Ant

Actually, all the fire ant pictures at PestMall are pretty suspicious but this one’s far and away the best.  Look closely.  That’s not a fire ant.  That’s not even an ant.  In fact, let’s hop right out of Hymenoptera altogether.

That, my friends, is an earwig.  10 points and a cookie to anyone who uses Alex Wild’s formula to calculate the Taxonomy Fail Index.

And finally, I’ll leave you with my favorite picture that I stumbled across in my Google image search:
This is a fire fire ant.
This is a fire fire ant.  (FreakingNews.com)

(Let’s be clear, though.  Adding flame decals to an ant will not make it a fire ant any more than it will make your car go faster.  Nice try Montgomery Pest Control.)

(Bonus: New Orleans pest control has a fire ant that is Not an Argentine Ant.)