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Here's why the 'murder hornet' is getting a new name

The Entomological Society of America announced Monday that the species is now being called the northern giant hornet, eliminating the old Asian giant hornet moniker.
Credit: AP
The Asian giant hornet has been renamed the northern giant hornet by the Entomological Society of America.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The "murder hornet" is getting rebranded.

On Monday, the Entomological Society of America announced that it has adopted a new name for the Asian giant hornet, stating that the species Vespa mandarinia will be known as the northern giant hornet moving forward.

“Amid a rise in hate crimes and discrimination against people of Asian descent, usage of ‘Asian’ in the name of a pest insect can unintentionally bolster anti-Asian sentiment,” the ESA wrote on its website.

The northern giant hornet, also known colloquially as the "murder hornet," was first discovered in North America in 2019. An invasive species, it preys on other insects, like honeybees. 

A small group of hornets can take just hours to decimate an entire honeybee hive, insect experts say.

But the name "Asian giant hornet" can also be confusing, because all hornets -- including the 22 species of wasps in the genus Vespa -- are native or common to Asia, the ESA said.

“Northern giant hornet is both scientifically accurate and easy to understand, and it avoids evoking fear or discrimination,” ESA president Dr. Jessica Ware said. 

Last year, the ESA established new guidelines for how it would adopt acceptable insect common names. The new rules forbid names from referring to ethnic or racial groups, or from stoking fear. The guidelines also discourage naming from geographical references.

That's why the ESA replaced the "gypsy moth" name with "spongy moth" earlier this year.

The name, which refers to the moth’s sponge-like egg masses, was recommended by a group of over 50 scientists and professionals who work in research or forest management settings.

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