They got the name “murder hornet” for their unique way they kill their prey, but maybe that was a bit too much of a burden for the Asian giant hornet. Now, the Vespa mandarinia, which recently reached the Pacific Northwest from Asia, has a new name: the northern giant hornet. The Entomological Society of America made the decision last month.
“Chris Looney, an entomologist at the Washington State Department of Agriculture who has been leading efforts to control the spread of the hornets, wrote the official proposal to change the insect’s name,” writes the New York Times. “He cited various reasons for doing so, including the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Connecting a scary insect, already associated with murder and attempted eradication, to Asia, might stoke more anti-Asian sentiment.”
Jessica Ware, an entomologist and president of the Entomological Society of America, said the name change was the right thing to do. “Calling it the Asian giant hornet wasn’t very descriptive because a number of related giant hornets come from Asia,” she told the Times. “And then murder hornet wasn’t very descriptive, either, because they don’t murder people.”