One woke American scientist strongarmed in a change to the name of the Asian giant hornet, which is commonly spoken about using the name “murder hornet,” officially changed this week in what seems to be an attempt to be less offensive to China.
The massive insect has the power to absolutely decimate entire populations of honeybees, literally tearing their heads off, and their extremely painful stings can end up being quite fatal to humans if they are even slightly allergic.
Asian giant hornets have most recently been seen in low numbers across the Pacific Northwest, where officials have quickly tried to exterminate them before they established themselves as a more permanent fixture of the local habitats in the U.S.
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) has now issued demands that the bug be labeled the “Northern giant hornet” in an effort to stop stigmas due to anti-Asian sentiment stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, which first started in China.
One entomologist at the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Chris Looney, stated in his proposal to change the name of the Asian giant hornet that it is an entirely invasive species that are “native to parts of Asia” and that the name is quite “accurate.”
Despite the other three reasons Looney listed for insisting on renaming that insect, his most important reason was the stigma associated with the name.
“Indeed, in my personal experience I have heard statements like ‘another damn thing from China’ multiple times …,” he explained. “Even if people do not explicitly ascribe negative feelings towards the insect, or their neighbors and colleagues of Asian descent, the prominence of the descriptor ‘Asian’ in the common name will, for some people, implicitly take precedence over other, more important, biological characteristics.”
“It is at best a neutral and uninformative adjective, potentially a distraction from more salient characters of the organism, and at worst a racist trope,” he went on. “Finally, insisting on incorporating ‘Asian’ into the common name risks alienating some community members and deterring participation in an otherwise vibrant community science program.”
An entomologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Akito Kawahara, stated to The New York Times that she wanted to “avoid names that are associated with particular races or regions” due to the idea that when the organism is “invading” it is “really, really, problematic.”
Just a few years ago when the Asian giant hornets were first discovered within the U.S., many officials began the search for their nests via the use of infrared cameras while they set traps across the area, including special traps designed to keep the hornets alive and kicking. Officials wanted to take in live specimens in order to tag and released them in the hope that they could show the scientists where the nests were.
Asian giant hornets can end up being massive, reaching out a staggering two inches long, which is noticeably bigger than honeybees.
— Washington State Department of Agriculture (@WSDAgov) June 22, 2020