Is it honeybee or honey bee? As a general rule, I believe there is more than one way to do most things—all of which are dependent on the facts and circumstances in the specific case. However, there is one issue on which I will not give an inch, and that is the spelling of “honey bee.”
I have two favorite quotes on this subject. The oldest comes from Anatomy of the Honey Bee by Robert E. Snodgrass (1956):
Regardless of dictionaries, we have in entomology a rule for insect common names that can be followed. It says: If the insect is what the name implies, write the two words separately; otherwise run them together. Thus we have such names as house fly, blow fly, and robber fly contrasted with dragonfly, caddicefly, and butterfly, because the latter are not flies, just as an aphislion is not a lion and a silverfish is not a fish. The honey bee is an insect and is preeminently a bee; “honeybee” is equivalent to “Johnsmith.”
The above quote surfaces frequently. For example, it appears as a “Linguistic Note” at the front of Letters from the Hive by Stephen Buchmann (2005).
The second quote is much more recent and a little easier to read. It appears as the “Author’s Note” in Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen (2008):
Copyeditors of the world beware. The spelling of insect names in this book follows the rules of the Entomological Society of America, not Merriam-Webster’s. When a species is a true example of a particular taxon, that taxon is written separately. Honey bees and bumble bees are true bees, and black flies are true flies. A yellowjacket, however, is not a true jacket. Entomologists, who have to read the names of bugs a lot more than the rest of us do, would appreciate it if we all followed these rules.
So there you have it. To me, it is a closed subject.
Honey Bee Suite