There is an interesting discussion going on in the media about bed bugs. Or, Bedbugs. The issue is, is it one word or two?
Traditionally (i.e, the last 100 years or so), entomologists are taught that stonefly and deer fly are written differently on purpose; A stonefly is not a true fly (Diptera), so is written as one word. Deer fly IS a true fly, so is written as two words. Basically, it’s a way to signify insects with common names that are taxonomically incorrect. A bed bug IS a true bug (Hemiptera), so it is written as two words, not one.
The rule about inserting spaces in insect common names seems to be a modern creation, an informal way of using the spelling of these names as an aide memoire to distinguish Diptera or Hemiptera species from other little beasties. It’s highly unlikely ever to affect the usual spelling of bedbug, since the tendency in modern English is to amalgamate multi-word terms into single words, not split them apart. The spelling has long since become standard for everybody except professional entomologists.
So, does it really matter? Is it important to anyone besides entomologists to make this distinction?
I dithered over this for quite a while, since I’m the sort of person that completely looses my shit when I see “potato’s for sale” at the supermarket. I confess; I’m a grammar nerd.
For the average Joe Public, this distinction is probably not hugely important, although it is a nice way to remember your taxonomy. But for professional journalists–the kinds of people that would be following the AP style guide–yes, I think it does matter. Why in the world would you deliberately ignore an established convention of a major biological discipline? That’s just….weird.
The AP Stylebook is WRONG. Bug Girl has spoken.