The notorious invasive insect pest now has a new common name

What’s in a name? Many, according to the Entomological Society of America (ESA), which recently adopted the “giant northern hornet” for the species. Tangerine Vespa in his list of common names of insects and related organisms.

V. mandarin is known to most people as the Asian giant hornet or “murder hornet”. The invasive pest native to Asia was the target of eradication efforts in Washington state and British Columbia after individual hornets were discovered in 2019. Many headlines followed. These giant hornets are of great concern to beekeepers as they can attack and decimate honey bee colonies within hours.

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

In 2021, the ESA adopted new guidelines for acceptable insect common names, which prohibit names referring to ethnic or racial groups and names that could incite fear; policies also discourage geographic references, especially for invasive species. The Society has also launched the Better Common Names Project, an effort to review and replace common insect names that may be inappropriate or offensive. No common name for V. mandarin has already been adopted by ESA, and none of the names previously used in mainstream media meet ESA guidelines.

Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Chris Looney, who is part of a team researching and trying to eradicate the hornet, came up with the common name, citing the need for an accessible name. and precise to facilitate simple and inclusive public communication about the insect.

“ESA is grateful to Dr Looney for coming up with this common name,” says Ware. “And we commend entomologists and colleagues on both sides of the border for their energy and ingenuity in working to prevent the northern giant hornet from gaining a foothold in North America.”

Although confirmed sightings have been confined to a single county in Washington and several locations in southern British Columbia, the northern giant hornet could likely find suitable habitat in much of the Pacific Northwest. and beyond if allowed to disperse. This would pose a significant threat to native bees and honey bees, which lack natural defenses against the hornet. How the hornets arrived in North America remains under investigation, although DNA analysis shows that the hornets on either side of the Canada-US border likely did not originate from the same place in Asia, suggesting the possibility of more than one introduction.

For more information on the northern giant hornet and eradication updates, visit agr.wa.gov.



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