Bee words having Latin plurals
Today I’m going to write about Latin. How boring is that? But there is a reason for my madness: time and again I have heard beekeepers trip all over certain bee words having Latin plurals, so I’ve decided to review a few of the common ones. I know nothing about Latin, which makes me (by Internet standards) the perfect person for the job.
A larva is an immature bee in the second-stage of metamorphosis. Bees, like many other insects, go from egg to larva to pupa to adult. It is a stage often referred to as “worm-like” by non-entomologists. Most people have no trouble saying or spelling “larva” or the adjective “larval.” But the plural gets folks all tangled up.
A number of Latin plurals are formed by adding an “e” to the end of the word. The final “e” has the same effect as adding an “s” to many English words. It simply means “more than one.” So “larva” in the plural becomes “larvae.” Now, I’ve been told that technically that is not quite right, that you actually drop the final “a” and add “ae” which, to me, just adds confusion. So forget that part. Just add the “e” and be happy.
Now that you’ve got it spelled right, how the heck do you say it? In the singular, you say lar-vah, but in the plural the end of the word has a long “e” sound: lar-vee. It rhymes with “many.” Many larvae.
According to some dictionaries, the plural form “larvas” is slowly becoming accepted, but for now it seems that beekeepers are sticking with the Latin form.
A pupa is the third life stage, right after larva and means “doll.” Apparently someone thought a pupa looked like a little doll. Whatever. But the good news is the plural is formed exactly the same way. Just add an “e” to the end of the word, and pronounce it as a long “e”: pyoo-pah becomes pyoo-pee. Like the plural form “larvas”, the word “pupas” is slowly becoming accepted.
This is easy, right? All these words work the same way. A corbicula is a pollen basket, a hairy receptacle on the hind legs of some bee species that is used for carrying pollen. The plural, of course, is “corbiculae” and is pronounced with a long “e” sound at the end: cor-bi-kyoo-lee.
You might not know this one unless you are fond of identifying wild bee species. A facial fovea (fo-vee-ah) is an indentation in the bee’s face, running alongside the compound eye in some species. It means “pit” and, in some cases it is filled with hairs. The plural of “fovea,” as you might now assume, is “foveae” (fo-vee-ee). It is difficult to pronounce because there is a long “e” sound followed by another long “e” sound.
So there you have my Latin lesson for the day. It can take a while to learn the plurals, especially when you so often see or hear them used incorrectly. If even one person finds this useful, it will have been worth the effort.
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