Crickets songs are more popular than Beyonce

Twitter is a weird place, no doubt about that. To some, it’s an incomprehensible mish-mash of @’s, #’s and @holes. To others (Follow me @Roach_Brain #SelfPromotion), it’s actually a means of exchanging information.

But today, on Friday the 13th of November 2015, it’s a tool I can use to tell you something about our society (#twitterverse @Roach_Brain #BadTiming). I want to know how popular certain topics are on Twitter, specifically, insects. I am an entomologist so I want to know how popular certain insects are among people that talk on twitter.

As a measure of popularity I used Tweets per second (actually, -1/Log(tweets/second) ) containing a certain key word (e.g. “beetle”, “butterfly”) and use that as a measure of that topic’s popularity. (#StatisticalSignificance #EggplantEmoji).

Just for some context I included some other things that are not insects (e.g. shark, jellyfish, Obama, Beyonce) along with as many insect and insect-like things (fleas, spiders, cockroaches, Justin Bieber) as I could.

The popularity on the vertical axis is measured from Twitter search data, specifically: popularity= -1/Log(tweets/second) . The horizontal axis shows all the search words I used. I searched for each word on twitter, logged the number of seconds since the last 20 posts where each word appeared in a tweet and calculated the popularity measure from there.

Obama is only slightly less popular right now than the insect-like Justin Bieber. Good news for entomologists I guess (#CanadianEntomologists4Ever).

Beyonce is quite popular as well, but surprisingly, less popular than sharks, crickets, bees and butterflies. Crickets also sing so maybe their songs are more popular than Beyonce’s (#CrazyInLoveWithACricket #AllTheSingleChirpingLadies).

Butterflies, of course, lead the true-insects in popularity (#BieberSoButterfly). I am sorry to say that my personal hero, astrophysicist Niel DeGrasse Tyson is not very popular on twitter at the moment. Although to be fair I didn’t search his twitter handle but just the name “deGrasse”-the most unique part of his name trifecta (#NameTrifecta #Triforce #Zelda).

So, we have a few very popular animals and some not so popular ones.

Why are some insects more popular than others?

Take a look at this next graph.

These are the same popularity measures as the last graph but this time I have lumped together all the animal terms by how attractive they are (#PinkUnicorns). This does not include the ones like “Obama” “deGrasse” and “Bieber” because these would all be extreme outliers for attractiveness and would break the right side of the graph. Although I personally think most insects are very pretty (not all…: I tried to judge attractiveness based on what I think most people would say.

Interestingly enough, it seems that more pretty insects are not any more popular than ugly ones. Of course how attractive an animal is very subjective. And how do you say that beetles (a group with hundreds of thousands of species) are either ugly or pretty?


“…pretty insects are not any more popular than ugly ones.”

This is the same as the last one except instead of attractiveness I have plotted popularity against how useful each group is percieved to be to humanity. Things like wasps are usually seen to be bad because they sting people, whereas butterflies are not only beautiful but are important pollinators. Of course wasps can be pollinators also and have lots of important ecological functions, but most people are generally pretty negative about them

The next option is utility. Maybe people talk about a particular insect more if they are an annoyance and less if their are living harmoniously with us?

This doesn’t seem to be the case either. This is also a tricky one though. Most people would feel very strongly that mosquitoes are bad, but that’s because mosquitoes are very common. However, there are very few people that have a strong opinion about stoneflies (#WhatsThat) but when someone does have an opinion it’s bound to be positive (#RollingStoneFly #WaterQualityWednesday).

Whether they help us or not doesn’t affect insect’s popularity

So far we can’t quite figure out what is causing some insects to be more popular than others. Maybe it has to do with how many of them there are.

Are more diverse insects more popular?

Popularity versus species diversity. I placed groups with less than 7000 species into the low diversity category and then things with hundreds of thousands of species in the highest diversity category.

Hmm…mixed results (#TentativeTuesday #Uncertainty #PurpleMonkeyDishWasher). Almost all of those insects with low diversity (e.g. Mantises, Stoneflies, Cicadas) are not very popular. However, among the medium to high diversity insects (butterflies, bees, and beetles) there is a varying amount of popularity. So, megadiversity may lead to megapopularity…or not.

One thing to note is that how often an insects name gets mentioned on twitter is also influenced by other uses of those words. The word “butterfly” can be used to reference the insect, or to a particular shape (as in…). Also, there are a lot of butterfly products: stickers, jewelry, costumes etc. Crickets are a really good example of this because cricket is the name of a sport popular in many countries. Are these people actually tweeting about Cricket and not crickets? Does this mean that crickets aren’t actually that popular?

What do you think makes an insect popular?

What do you think makes an insect popular? Is it body size? It is how easy they are to see? Is it how disgusting they are? Is it how much they spread disease? Tweet me your thoughts @Roach_Brain with my personal and totally unique hash-tag: #BanBossy.

Dominic Evangelista is a PhD candidate studying the biodiversity and systematics of the cockroaches of the Guiana Shield. 






#BadEnding #Anticlimactic #HashTagForTheSakeOfAHashTag