Glen Paul: G'day, and welcome to CSIROpod, I'm Glen Paul.
American singer, songwriter, and actress, Beyoncé, has earned many awards and accolades during her career, including among them 16 Grammy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with former group Destiny's Child.
Beyoncé can now add to that list, bestowed with a tribute that few other singers can lay claim to, and bringing new meaning to the expression 'being fly – Beyonce has had a horse fly named in her honour.
Australian National Insect Collection researcher, CSIRO's Bryan Lessard, named the fly in honour of Beyoncé because of the fly's spectacular gold colour, and joins me on the phone to talk about it.
Now, I take it Bryan, you’re somewhat a fan of Beyonce, as well as insects?
Bryan Lessard: Yeah, definitely I am. I'm known to actually listen to some of her music in the lab here and there.
Glen Paul: So, you're listening to Beyoncé, and then obviously there was something about this particular fly that also made Beyoncé jump out in naming it?
Bryan Lessard: Definitely. Here at the Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra we have over 12 million specimens, and when I was going through our unsorted material there was one unnamed species that particularly stood out of a crowd, just like Beyoncé.
Glen Paul: And what was it about this particular fly that made it stand out?
Bryan Lessard: It was this bright, illustrious, golden abdomen that’s just popped out, and I didn't even need a microscope to see it.
Glen Paul: The golden abdomen drew you to think of Beyonce, with the music playing in the background?
Bryan Lessard: Exactly. That’s exactly how it unfolded.
Glen Paul: And so, how do you normally pick descriptive names for insects?
Bryan Lessard: Well, normally you can name them after the type, locality, where the insect was first found, or after colleagues, or you can latinise certain features.
I named one species Orie Fulgor which means yellow lightning, because there was a striking yellow lightning bolt down its side, and that was related to the Scaptia Beyoncé fly.
Glen Paul: Right, Scaptia Beyoncé – is that the official full name?
Bryan Lessard: So the full title of this bootylicious fly is Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae.
Glen Paul: Right. And there's also another connection there too between the two, that relates to the year of 1981.
Bryan Lessard: Exactly. This horse fly was first found in 1981, that's when it was collected, but unfortunately at the time no one knew how to identify it, because entomology requires a certain expertise when it comes to specific insect groups, and you can imagine there's such a large number of insect groups in the world.
So it sat in the drawers here at the Australian National Insect Collection for over 30 years, until someone working in that group studied them.
Glen Paul: And that I believe was also the year of birth of Beyoncé?
Bryan Lessard: Yep, 1981 is the same year that Beyoncé was born herself.
Glen Paul: Right. Well it sounds like it was meant to be then. Now a horse fly, is that another name for a March fly in Australia?
Bryan Lessard: Yep. So horse flies are also known as March flies to different people in different areas, but they’re all from the same fly family, the Tabanidae.
Glen Paul: And obviously they're well known for their painful bite, but do they perform any other more useful roles in nature?
Bryan Lessard: They certainly do, and that's why I named it after Beyoncé, to help generate a bit of buzz about entomology and horse flies in particular, because horse flies are also extremely important pollinators, which many people would just not think of.
Glen Paul: And I'm sure you've achieved creating a bit of buzz around the fly. Whereabouts in Australia will you find the Beyoncé fly – perhaps fans might want to take a look at her namesake?
Bryan Lessard: Yeah, well if they want to meet the Beyoncé fly they can go to the Atherton Tableland in North Queensland. The fly is rare because there's only been three specimens collected in the history of our collection.
Glen Paul: Hmm, so you wouldn’t say endangered, but very rare?
Bryan Lessard: It's pretty rare.
Glen Paul: OK. And how many other flies and insects do you have left in the collection still requiring names?
Bryan Lessard: Oh, we have heaps. There are over 30 000 species of Australian flies, and that's just from the Diptera.
We have so many undescribed species from all the other orders of insects, so that's why by naming this fly after Beyoncé, I can appeal to a younger generation and get them involved in taxonomy and entomology, because we need the help.
Glen Paul: And what path should they take to become involved?
Bryan Lessard: Well they can do entomology courses, and we are running one at the Australian National University this year, and we also have an extremely useful volunteer program where people from the general public can come in and help us with the working collection, and actually get involved.
Glen Paul: OK. So how does one become a volunteer?
Bryan Lessard: There's information on our website, or you can contact our Collection Manager.
Glen Paul: Well, it certainly is a great honour, and one for the ages, to have a fly named after you.
Bryan Lessard: Definitely. I was hoping this fly would be a mascot for bootylicious biodiversity, because biodiversity is the world's life support, and it’s in heavy decline at the moment, with massive extinctions.
So by studying biodiversity we can help manage our ecosystems, and conserve it for future generations.
Glen Paul: Hmm. It certainly is bootylicious biodiversity, and I’m sure we’ve used every pun in the book in this podcast. Thank you very much for talking to me about it today, Bryan.
Bryan Lessard: No worries. Thank you, Glen.
Glen Paul: Bryan Lessard. And for more information find us online at www.csiro.au. You can like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter at CSIROnews.