The reason? Due to the current prohibition of naming species with words that make references to ethnic or racial groups that can cause fear.
In 2021, the Entomological Society of America updated its guidelines for common names of insects, including this prohibition that includes words that can provoke any type of negative reaction in the public. The choice has as much to do with people as it does with hornets.
The Asian hornet ‘ Vespa mandarinia’ became the spirit insect of the end of the world for the beginning of the times of COVID-19. By 2019, the species had hitchhiked across the Pacific and was already nesting in Canada . The news told of hornet queens as long as a human thumb and of hornet raids in late summer that massacred entire hives of adult bees to steal the plump larvae for wasp food.
no negative connotation
Since all wasps are native to Asia, the name Asian giant hornet does not convey unique information about the biology or behavior of the species, according to the ESA. “I don’t want my Asian American or Pacific Islander colleagues, friends and family to have negative connotations with invasive species or pests that could be used against them in a negative way ,” said ESA President Jessica Ware.
The proposal to establish a common name came from Dr. Chris Looney, who was active in the state’s hornet research and efforts to eradicate the giant hornet from northern Washington, officials said.
The new name is intended to comply with ESA insect common naming guidelines , which include avoiding naming insects using geographic regions.
The northern giant hornet is native to Asia and has been the target of eradication efforts in Washington state and British Columbia, Canada, after hornets were first discovered in both locations in 2019.
This decision is official in the sense of selection by a relevant institution, but the ESA can only enforce the use of the name in its own publications. Other groups may decide to follow the ESA rules, but there is no central authority for all common names . A field guide writer can choose between popular traditions and languages or even make up names.
Reference: Entomological Society of America/European Space Agency.