By now, you’ve probably heard of the infamous “murder hornets” that have been found in the Pacific Northwest.
Officials have been trying to eradicate the hornets before they wreak havoc on local honey bee populations, but it seems they’re here to stay – at least temporarily.
While scientifically known as Vespa mandarinia, the invasive hornets are more commonly referred to as “murder hornets” or “giant Asian hornets.” But that’s about to change.
In a press release announcing the name adoption, ESA President Jessica Ware explained:
“Common names are an important tool for entomologists to communicate with the public about insects and insect science. Northern giant hornet is both scientifically accurate and easy to understand, and it avoids evoking fear or discrimination.”
In 2021, ESA adopted new guidelines for acceptable insect common names. The new guidelines discourage referencing ethnic or racial groups and names that might invoke fear. Additionally, the new guidelines discourage geographic references, especially when discussing invasive species like the Vespa mandarinia.
Entomologist Chris Looney authored the common-name proposal, citing the need for an “accessible, accurate name to facilitate simple and inclusive public communication about the insect.”
Using “Asian” in the name, such as with the Asian giant hornet, could potentially bolster anti-Asian sentiment, and it also doesn’t make a lot of sense from a taxonomic standpoint since all hornets are native or common to Asia.
As the press release noted, all future communication from the ESA referencing the Vespa mandarinia will adopt the common name “northern giant hornet.”
The ESA is also urging the rest of the scientific community, the media, government agencies, and the public to adopt and use the name for the species.