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 any negative connotations with invasive or pest species that might be used against them in a negative way,” ESA President Jessica Ware said.
The northern giant hornet poses a potential threat to honeybees, human health and agriculture, said Karla Salp, acting communications director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
In 2019, the hornet now known as the northern giant hornet was found in Washington State, and there have been efforts to eradicate the species entirely since then. The public helped find three out of the four nests that have been eradicated in the state, demonstrating that public awareness is critical.
“If allowed to establish in regions within North America, the northern giant hornet could significantly impact local ecosystems,” according to the ESA’s common name toolkit for the northern giant hornet.
“Northern giant hornets generally do not attack people, but will do so if provoked or threatened,” the toolkit said. “Their stinger is longer than that of bees and wasps found in North America, and their venom is more toxic.”
Northern giant hornets are not the only thing that causes damage to honeybee hives, and the word murder evokes fear, Ware said. She hopes that the name change will allow people to learn about and understand the species from a wider perspective.
“Even though the northern giant hornet has some negative things about it, like all of the 1.5 million insect species out there, it’s got a complicated life,” Ware said. “Some parts of its life history and ecology are really fascinating. It’s been around for over millions of years before humans even came on the scene.”
Ware encourages people to submit a request to the Better Common Names Project if there is an insect name they believe should be changed.