Flies are not often a topic of conversation, except for this soldier fly named after one of the most influential drag queens.
Entomologists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIRO) announced they named a fly species after drag icon RuPaul. The soldier fly was aptly named Opaluma RuPaul – the Latin word for opal and thorn – and because of how bright and colorful it is. It’s distinguishable by the thorn tucked under its abdomen and described as “little gems buzzing around the forest floor.”
In Choosing a Name
Bryan Lessard (Bry the Fly Guy) said he watched a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race while studying the species. “It has a costume of shiny metallic rainbow colors, and it has legs for days. I think once RuPaul sees the fly, she’ll realize it’s quite fierce and hopefully appreciate the name,” he explains. It was an “obvious decision,” Lessard told The Guardian, and it’s the 50th one he’s named.
Pop Culture References
Using pop culture icons as references is something Lessard has been doing for a while. In 2011, he named a horse fly in honor of Beyonce (Scaptia beyonceae) because of the distinctive golden hairs on the fly’s lower abdomen. “There’s a new wave of entomologists using pop culture to generate interest in our science and what we do, which is really exciting.”
Among the new soldier flies Lessard named, 13 are from locations impacted by Australia’s disastrous bushfires between 2019 and 2020. Part of why he gives attention-catching names to them is to inspire the public to care more about the invertebrates and encourage the younger generations to pursue a career in etymology.
Lessard hopes that naming the soldier fly after an LGBTQ+ icon like RuPaul sends the message that the world of science is inclusive. “I think it’s really important for the next generation of LGBTQ+ scientists to know that they’re being represented in the workplace, as we give the names of legends in the community to memorable species,” he said on CNN.