Jane Halprin was stoked when she found this beetle but wasn't sure if it was an Iridescent Green or a Christmas Beetle.
Jane Halprin was stoked when she found this beetle but wasn't sure if it was an Iridescent Green or a Christmas Beetle. Courtesy of Jane Halprin

5000 names suggested for beetles, judges choose 9

BEETLE mania hit the Australian Museum this month when scientists asked the public for help naming nine varieties of Christmas beetle.

Museum staff held a naming competition and were amazed by the response.

"We had all up nearly 5000 entries," said media spokeswoman Claire Vince.

"When we first came up with the idea we thought maybe nobody will be interested, I would never have thought people were so into Christmas beetles.

"We had some great names coming through."

Fierce competition, cool judging

Ms Vince said the museum's head insect scientist, Chris Reid, liked Lamington as a name "but apparently the other two judges were not so keen".

The busy entomologist said he spent all Monday morning trawling through the entries.

"There were some that I really liked but were probably too urban, like Long Macchiato and The Holiday Stubble.

"There had to be mutual agreement between judges and it took us an hour and a half."

Dr Reid said he and the other two judges enjoyed "strong debate" over the names but managed to keep their cool.

"It was not too fierce," he said.

Beetle inspiration

Judges decided anything to do with The Beatles was too obvious and probably not very Australian.

"We had a strong feeling we could more or less divide them into adult and child entrants and it seemed children had a strong focus on Christmas [as a theme]," said Dr Reid, listing Reindeer Beetle as an example.

Royal connotations were popular, following the trend set by two of the already named beetles: King Beetle and Queen Beetle.

But most winning entries had names closely linked to physical characteristics of each beetle pictured on the competition web site and were:

  • Furry Tailed Prince
  • Emerald Tip Beetle
  • Campfire Beetle
  • Purple Reign
  • Duck Billed Beetle
  • Cashew Beetle
  • Granny Smith Beetle
  • Copper Crown Beetle
  • Hairy Spotted Beetle

Purple Reign

"I think it was in honour of Prince but I don't think they knew it was spelled Rain in the song" said Ms Vince of Purple Reign.

"We got quite a few names linked to Prince."

 

The Purple Reign Beetle, scientific name Anoplognathus hirsutus, courtesy of Australian Museum Collection.
The Purple Reign Beetle, scientific name Anoplognathus hirsutus, courtesy of Australian Museum Collection. Mike Burleigh

But winning competitor Jane Halprin said she and her nine-year-old daughter, Izzy, deliberately chose to play on words in honour of Prince (the late pop artist), the existing royal Christmas beetle theme and the purplish hues of the beetle.

"My daughter and I are massive Bowie fans and we tried to think of something along the lines of the Thin White Duke," said Ms Halprin, referring to one of David Bowie's alter-egos.

"We came up with another Bowie reference - The Beetle from Mars."

Ms Halprin said she and Izzy didn't normally see Christmas beetles in their Melbourne yard but this summer was different.

"On the 10th of December a Christmas beetle appear[ed] from nowhere in our lounge room at the foot of the Christmas tree," she said.

"To have this happen after such a hard year, it's a sign."

Granny Smith Beetle

The bright green Granny Smith Beetle was named by Robert Fairhead of Sydney, who hoped to see lots of Christmas beetles when he visited his mother in Maclean, south of Lismore, over the holiday period.

Mr Fairhead went against the royal theme and took a grass roots approach: "I was inspired by the [existing name of] Washerwoman," he said.

 

The Granny Smith Beetle, scientific name Anoplognathus prasinus, courtesy of Australian Museum Collection.
The Granny Smith Beetle, scientific name Anoplognathus prasinus, courtesy of Australian Museum Collection. Mike Burleigh

The name was also a tribute to his grandmother, who raised Mr Fairhead and his brother.

"She always got us Granny Smith apples and I was always jealous of people with shiny red apples in their lunch boxes," he said.

"I don't if she'd be too impressed, she'd probably say we need to get all those beetles swept outta here!"

Ms Vince said the newly named beetles would go into a Christmas beetle identification app prepared by Dr Reid and scientific illustrator Mike Burleigh that was freely available from Google Play and Apple stores.

More beetles need names

Dr Reid said the job of naming Christmas beetles was not over yet and didn't rule out making the competition an annual event.

"We've covered the Sydney Basin area but there are similar clusters in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Cairns," the scientist said.



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