Subject: Red and black striped stink bug
Geographic location of the bug: Montenegro
Time: 07:04 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Thought you might like to know we found this guy in Montenegro Kotor Bay
How you want your letter signed: Frangipanimoonflower
According to iNaturalist, this boldly colored and marked Stink Bug, Graphosoma lineatum, is commonly called a Striped Bug or Minstrel Bug. The site states: “The orange and black warning colours (aposematism) indicate that the insects are foul-tasting, protecting them from predators. The nymphs do not have the orange-black stripe pattern, instead they are mostly brownish.”
Ed. Note: We thought we needed to do additional research on the name Minstrel Bug, and we have decided upon further reflection to change the name of both the subject line of this posting and the caption on the image to Striped Bug. A minstrel is, according to Merriam-Webster: “one of a class of medieval musical entertainers especially : a singer of verses to the accompaniment of a harp wandering minstrels,” but a more recent meaning entered the language with this definition: “a member of a type of performance troupe caricaturing black performers that originated in the U.S. in the early 19th century. NOTE: The acts of minstrels, who typically performed in blackface, featured exaggerated and inaccurate representations of black people in songs, dances, and comic dialogue. The popularity of minstrel shows in their heyday played a significant role in promoting negative racial stereotypes. Professional minstrel shows had fallen out of favor and effectively disappeared by the mid-20th century.” What really interested us was how the black and red stripes of the Striped Bug related to minstrel costumes, and our initial searching located this image with a fascinating reversal of a racially insensitive representation of the other on the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago where this statement is posted: “Minstrel of old sang plantation songs and other American songs like ‘Swanee River’ and dressed in a variety of costumes e.g. Uncle Sam tailcoat, pinstripe trousers, white gloves and felt top hat.” To add further confusion to the common name Minstrel Bug, this insect is European, and we can’t imagine how a decidedly American negative stereotype came to be used for the name of a European insect.