Respect Equality

Invasive ‘murder hornet’ is getting a rebrand. Here’s why.

“Although the descriptor ‘Asian’ in this context is not at all pejorative, and is geographically accurate, its association with a large insect that inspires fear and is under eradication may bolster anti-Asian sentiment among some people.”
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Story at a glance


  • Entomological Society of America (ESA) President Jessica Ware said the new name, northern giant hornet, will help clear confusion about the species in media reports and move away from a name that could lead to discrimination.

  • The ESA adopted new guidelines for acceptable insect common names in 2021, which prohibits the use of ethnic or racial names, or names that might raise fear.

  • Confirmed sightings of the northern giant hornet in the U.S. have been limited to one county in Washington. 

The Asian giant hornet, commonly known as the murder hornet, has a new name as its former moniker could stoke anti-Asian sentiment.  

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) chose to rebrand the invasive species as the northern giant hornet, with the ESA concluding the political climate contributed to the need to change the name. 

“Although the descriptor ‘Asian’ in this context is not at all pejorative, and is geographically accurate, its association with a large insect that inspires fear and is under eradication may bolster anti-Asian sentiment among some people,” read the name change proposal, authored by entomologist Chris Looney. 

ESA President Jessica Ware said in a statement that the new name will help clear confusion about the species in media reports and moves away from a name that could lead to discrimination. 

“Common names are an important tool for entomologists to communicate with the public about insects and insect science,” Ware said. “Northern giant hornet is both scientifically accurate and easy to understand, and it avoids evoking fear or discrimination.” 

The ESA adopted new guidelines for acceptable insect common names in 2021, which prohibits the use of ethnic or racial names or names that might raise fear.  

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Confirmed sightings of the northern giant hornet in the U.S. have been limited to one county in Washington. 

Northern giant hornets, first discovered in the U.S. in 2019, can be anywhere from 1.5 to 2 inches long and are “equipped with relatively massive mandibles (teeth) and can easily tear honeybees in half,” according to a 2020 report from the USDA

They can conduct mass attacks on honeybee hives and destroy a hive in hours. 

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