A new bug was named after former Gov. Jerry Brown. It kind of makes sense.

Bembidion brownorum is a new species of beetle discovered by entomologists at UC Berkeley. Scientists decided to name it after former Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne, who own the ranch where the insect was discovered. 

Bembidion brownorum is a new species of beetle discovered by entomologists at UC Berkeley. Scientists decided to name it after former Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne, who own the ranch where the insect was discovered. 

Images via AP; illustration by SFGATE

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have unearthed a new species of beetle, and like with any novel scientific discovery, they decided the insect needed a fitting name. 

They decided to go with "Bembidion brownorum," given that it was discovered on the Colusa County ranch owned by former California Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne. Having a beetle named after you isn't nearly as cool as having your name attached to commonly known words like "guillotine" (J. I. Guillotin) or "nicotine" (Jean Nicot), but let's face it: Most of us will not have our names associated with anything that endures long after our corporeal forms have turned to dust (except children, of course).

Besides, this specific beetle is pretty neat. UC Berkeley entomologist Kip Will, who discovered the dead insect near a creek on the Browns' ranch, told SFGATE it's likely that the beetle is a carnivore and a scavenger, and its diet probably consists of small worms or flies. Being the namesake for such a creature may unnerve some people — "it's not like a pretty little flower in the meadow," Will said — but the kid you knew in elementary school who spent his recess eating worms on the playground might be interested. 

As far as features go, the beetle is about 5 millimeters long and brown in color. Apart from being a little big for the beetle's specific genus of Bembidion, the insect is distinguishable by its unusually shaped prothorax, the part right behind the head. Will also said one of the unique things about the beetle is the bronze shimmer it has when viewed under light.


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After Will's discovery, scientists at UC Berkeley and at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco found that they had collected an additional 21 specimens over the years; they just didn't recognize that they were different from other beetles. Given that all 22 specimens are dead, it's hard to assign any behavioral traits to them. That means, for the purposes of this story, we couldn't draw many parallels between the beetles and the Browns. We can't say for certain that the beetles aren't proponents of fiscal responsibility and environmental stewardship, but Will did say he often observed Jerry swimming laps in the couple's outdoor pool during his visits to the ranch, so the former governor might also have a nice bronze shimmer. 

A close-up shot of the Bembidion brownorum. 

A close-up shot of the Bembidion brownorum. 

David Maddison via AP

The beetle isn't the first insect to be named after a former California governor, but it is the first of such insects to be endemic to the state. Two insects native to Costa Rica — a parasitic wasp and a ground beetle — were named after Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, respectively. Will said the beetle was named after Schwarzenegger because it has what appears to be large leg muscles. He didn't say why the parasitic wasp was named after Reagan, but I think some people would say the reason speaks for itself.  

All jokes aside, Will said the discovery speaks to the importance of the insect museums like the ones at UC Berkeley and the California Academy of Sciences. The Bembidion brownorum specimens in those museums date back to collections made in the early and mid-20th century — the most recent, apart from the one that Will found, was collected in 1966 — meaning that the species likely started to thin out sometime after the 1950s thanks to urbanization and agricultural development across California. He said such collections are imperative to furthering scientific research and fostering a better understanding of the state's natural ecosystems. 

"We wouldn't even know that there was a potentially threatened and declining species without those collections that are 100 or more years old," Will said. "One of the challenges we always face is how do we make people understand that those are still relevant for modern research and still need support and are important?"