The so-called "murder hornet" used to have the common name of Asian giant hornet. But no more: The Entomological Society of America and the Entomological Society of Canada have agreed it should be rebranded as the northern giant hornet, and the ESA is now using that name in its Common Names of Insects database, CNN reports. "The usage of ‘Asian’ in the name of a pest insect can unintentionally bolster anti-Asian sentiment," particularly “amid a rise in hate crimes and discrimination against people of Asian descent," the societies said in announcing their decision. "Northern giant hornet is both scientifically accurate and easy to understand, and it avoids evoking fear or discrimination," says the ESA president. "Northern" is a reference to the hornets' natural range in Asia's northern regions, CNET reports.
The societies add that no unique information about the invasive species' biology or behavior was communicated by the old name, since all wasps are native to Asia. "Murder hornets," scientific name Vespa mandarinia, were found in Washington state in 2019, and scientists are working to eradicate them before they make it to more areas, where they could threaten local ecosystems including agriculture and honeybee colonies, not to mention potentially attack people with their toxic sting. They've also been found in Canada. The entomologist who proposed the name change says the wasps' previous common name "is at best a neutral and uninformative adjective, potentially a distraction from more salient characters of the organism, and at worst a racist trope." (Read more murder hornets stories.)