Invasive insect formerly known as ‘murder hornet’ gets new name

By Rachel Fadem, CNN

The “murder hornet” is no more. At least his name is gone.

The Entomological Society of America and the Entomological Society of Canada have adopted a new name for the murder hornet, also known as the Asian giant hornet, stating that “the use of the word ‘Asian’ in the name of a pest may unintentionally enhance anti-Asian reactions. sentiment,” particularly “amid an increase in hate crimes and discrimination against people of Asian descent.”

The ESA has adopted the name “northern giant hornet” for the species in its database of insect common names.

Since all wasps are native to Asia, the name Asian giant hornet does not convey unique information about the species’ biology or behavior, according to the ESA.

Chris Looney, an entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, is the author of the name change proposal, saying the species’ old common name, scientifically called Vespa mandarinia, “is at best a neutral, non-informative adjective, potentially a distraction from more salient characters of the organism, and at worst a racist trope.

“I don’t want my Asian or Pacific Islander American colleagues, friends and family to have negative connotations with invasive or harmful species that could be used against them in a negative way,” the ESA President said. , Jessica Ware.

In 2021, the ESA updated its guidelines for acceptable insect common names to prohibit names that refer to ethnic or racial groups or that may cause fear, and discourage names that refer to geographic areas, especially for invasive species.

“Common names are an important tool for entomologists to communicate with the public about insects and insect science,” Ware said in a statement Monday. “The Northern Giant Hornet is both scientifically accurate and easy to understand, and it avoids evoking fear or discrimination.”

The northern giant hornet poses a potential threat to bees, human health and agriculture, said Karla Salp, acting director of communications for the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

In 2019, the hornet now known as the northern giant hornet was found in Washington State, and since then efforts have been made to completely eradicate the species. The public helped find three of the four nests that have been eradicated in the state, demonstrating that public awareness is essential.

Washington state is the only US state to have confirmed sightings of northern giant hornets, but the species could find habitat elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest if not contained, according to a 2021 study. in the Journal of Insect Science.

“If allowed to become established in parts of North America, the northern giant hornet could have a significant impact on local ecosystems,” according to ESA’s common name toolkit for the hornet. northern giant.

“Northern giant hornets do not usually attack people, but will if provoked or threatened,” the toolkit says. “Their stinger is longer than that of bees and wasps found in North America, and their venom is more toxic.”

Northern giant hornets aren’t the only thing causing damage to bee hives, and the word murder evokes fear, Ware said. She hopes the name change will allow people to learn and understand the species from a broader perspective.

“Even though the northern giant hornet has some negative things about it, like all 1.5 million species of insects, it has a complicated life,” Ware said. “Parts of its life history and ecology are really fascinating. It’s been around for millions of years before humans even came on the scene.

Ware encourages people to submit a request to the Better Common Names Project if there is an insect name they think should be changed.

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Jennifer Henderson contributed to this story.