The Stream Doctor

June 16th, 2003

Email YOUR Questions directly to the Stream Doctor. This is your opportunity to get an experts professional opinion on anything stream related.

Q. From John: I have some questions regarding the pronunciations of a few aquatic insects. For Baetis, I have heard this pronounced BAY-tis and BEE-tis. With Tricos, I have heard TREE-cos and TRY-cos. and for Chironomid, I have heard KUR-RON-O-Mid and CHUR-RON-O-Mid. Which of these is correct?

A. You'll probably be surprised, but the answer is all of them! Let me explain. Although there are very strict rules (see below) for the correct way to write these names, there are no definitive rules on pronouncing them. If you attend a professional meeting of aquatic entomologists and listen to their papers, you will hear different pronunciations of the same name. So, if the experts can't agree, I wouldn't worry too much. For the examples you give, the most common pronunciations are BAY-tis, TRY-cos, and either KYRO-nomids or ky-RON-omids; seldom do you hear the first syllable pronounced CHUR.

While I'm on this bandwagon, outdoor writers don't seem to be aware of the rules for writing scientific names. I published an article on the correct use of scientific names in the Outdoor Writers of America Newsletter, but I don't think anybody read it. To use your question as an example (and I don't mean to criticize, merely illustrate), there are three mistakes: First, Baetis is a true generic name and should be capitalized and italicized in print. Second, tricos is a "slang" name for the genus Tricorythodes and is not capitalized. Third, the same for chironomid, a "slang" name for the family Chironomidae or the genus Chironomus. These "slang" or common names are neither capitalized nor italicized; baetid is a common name for Baetis.
~ C. E. (Bert) Cushing, aka Streamdoctor
105 W. Cherokee Dr.
Estes Park, CO 80517
Phone: 970-577-1584

The 'Stream Doctor' is a retired professional stream ecologist and author, now living in the West and spending way too much time fly-fishing. You are invited to submit questions relating to anything stream related directly to him for use in this Q & A Feature at

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

Previous Stream Doctor Columns

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice