Where would the world be without great names? Sometimes iconic names are thought of, and they match the item, person, or thing they are referring to perfectly. That was certainly the case for the monstrous murder hornet. We understand that these bugs likely don’t murder people, but enough of them probably could. However, the name for the hornet was specifically known as the Asian giant hornet. This name was changed as the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) claimed that the “Asian” designation could or would result in “anti-Asian sentiment.” Considering these hornets can be found in North America, they have now been dubbed the “northern giant hornet.”
The reasoning behind changing the name also refers to wasps being native to Asia but calling the insect the Asian giant hornet did not do well explaining unique information, biology, or behavior of the species via its name. So now, it is being called the northern giant hornet. The murder hornet designation seemed to work fine before, but maybe entomologists did not want to freak anyone out with that name either. We are fine still calling the insect murder hornets because they are massive and look as though they would murder anything they came across anyway.
Back in 2021, the ESA updated its guidelines to reflect that ethnic or racial group names would no longer be accepted in the name of insect species, as that would cause some sort of fear if attached to a certain group of people. President of the ESA, Jessica Ware, also expanded on that idea. According to Ware, “Common names are an important tool for entomologists to communicate with the public about insects and insect science.” She added, “Northern giant hornet is both scientifically accurate and easy to understand, and it avoids evoking fear or discrimination.” That is some great reasoning for wanting to change the name of a species. A common name more easily reflects the study of said species without advocating to scare those who are interested in the subject of bugs. However, if that thing came flying at us, we would certainly be full of fear.
We do agree that calling murder hornets, “Asian giant hornets,” doesn’t quite make sense considering they are currently in North America. They may have originated there, but they are certainly not just known to reside in Asia. For that reason alone, it makes more sense to adopt a more common name. Having the word “giant” in the name works fine period. We wouldn’t mind if they were just referred to as giant hornets. That is what they are. If you have not seen the size of these insects, pull up an image of the size of them compared to a normal hornet. Giant is an understatement.
For those who want to sound proper and educated, you can now call these massive insects the Northern giant hornet. For the rest of us who may have a totally justified fear of bugs, they will always be referred to as murder hornets. We are not trying to propagate fear towards a likely misunderstood species but just keep those things away from us. Name it whatever you’d like, just don’t fly in our perimeters. We wouldn’t have to be the reason they end up on the endangered species list.