Bugs…and Music!

Those who know me from my musical instrument retailing days understand why my email addresses feature “music.” And, owing to that first sentence, those who have known me only as an entomologist now understand the origins of those addresses, too!

I suspect that had persistent email addresses existed in the 1970s, my email would have been arthropod-related. Come to think on it, I still have a working Yahoo email address from 2000 that also combines both interests, viz.: musicmygale@yahoo.

Anyway, combining those disparate interests–entomology from birth, music since 1958–had never been something I sought to do…until now (although I do rather like the fiddle tune Spider Bit the Baby).

So, owing to the following cascading–if bizarre–sequence of events, I have, indeed, combined music and spiders:

  1. A high school friend sent a me Haiku he wrote regarding COVID-19.
  2. In consequence, I, too, started writing in Haiku (he 5-7-5 syllable version) and started a Facebook group called “Surviving COVID-19 with Haiku.”
  3. I awoke one morning thinking*👇: “Gee, it would be hard to fit the scientific name of the common house spider, Parasteatoda tepidariorum (C. L. Koch, 1841) into Haiku format. So I did, of course, and posted same on my personal FB page, its having nothing to do with the trumpandemic.
  4. In response, one of my real-life FB friends jokingly suggested it should be a children’s song, so I
  5. jokingly replied that the words “Parasteatoda tepidariorum” would fit quite nicely into the melody of Gary Indiana, the song from Meredith Willson’s 1957 musical, The Music Man. So, naturally I
  6. wrote some words to fit.

Herewith my version, called (cleverly) Parasteatoda tepidariorum:

And yes, consider this to be a warning that I shall post another spider song anon.

Preview(opens in a new tab)

Technical notes for non-biologists:

  1. P. tepidariorum is one of the most common spiders living around humans (i.e. “synanthropic.”)
  2. A “scientific name” has two parts: the genus (“Parasteatoda”) and a specific epithet (“tepidariorum“). Thus, a scientific name can also be called a “binomial,” as I’ve used it in the song.
  3. Once one has stated the genus, it can be abbreviated to just its first letter–as I did in (1), above, and in the song.
  4. Barring some major error–such as describing as new a species that someone else has already published–the specific epithet stays with the organism forever, though the critter can be reassigned to another genus–which often happens. When it does, the name of the original author is placed in parentheses, as in this case.
  5. P. tepidariorum has bounced around from genus to genus in the last 179 years, having also been called Steatoda tepidariorum and Achaearanea**👇 tepidariorum, as well as a number of other names declared to be invalid synonyms. (If you really want to know, visit this page of the World Spider Catalog.)

Technical notes for non-musicians:

  1. Despite what you’re hearing, I used to be a decent guitar and banjo player, having
  2. not only played in quite a few bands, but
  3. having taught “professionally” starting in a music conservatory in 1964 and continuing privately until 2020.
  4. I stopped teaching largely owing to the combined effects of a broken left thumb and rather painful osteoarthritis in each hand.
  5. So, if you’re to judge my playing, please either listen to my MP3s or visit my Youtube channel–these repositories contain hundreds of recording of my playing instruments (mostly banjos) that I was trying to sell.

*👆 Weird, perhaps, but not at all out of character.

*👆 I learned this species as Achaearanea tepidariorum when It took Araneology in grad school. It became my favorite binomial, simply because of its comprising 12 syllables for such a tiny animal! My first response to its being put into Parasteatoda in 2006 was one of loss and disappointment. But then, I realized that it still has all 6 syllables and the word certainly scans better than Achaearanea for use in song or poetry! So it’s still my favorite name to bandy about.

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