A woke American scientist got the name of the Asian giant hornet, commonly referred to as a “murder hornet,” changed this week in an apparent attempt to be less offensive to China.
The giant insects can decimate entire populations of honeybees, literally ripping their heads off, and their painful stings can be potentially be fatal to humans if they are allergic.
Asian giant hornets have recently been spotted in small numbers in the Pacific Northwest, where officials have rushed to exterminate them before they become a permanent fixture of local habitats in the U.S.
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) now demands that the insect be called the “Northern giant hornet” to avoid stigmas amid anti-Asian sentiment due to the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China.
Chris Looney, an entomologist at the Washington State Department of Agriculture, admitted in his proposal to rename the Asian giant hornet that the invasive species is “native to parts of Asia” and that the name is “accurate.”
While Looney cited three different reasons for wanting to rename the insect, his top listed reason was stigma associated the name.
“Indeed, in my personal experience I have heard statements like ‘another damn thing from China’ multiple times …,” he claimed. “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 claimed. “Finally, insisting on incorporating ‘Asian’ into the common name risks alienating some community members and deterring participation in an otherwise vibrant community science program.”
Akito Kawahara, an entomologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told The New York Times that she wanted to “avoid names that are associated with particular races or regions” because when the organisms are “invading” it’s “really, really problematic.”
When the Asian giant hornets were first sighted back in the U.S. a couple of years ago, officials started searching for their nests using infrared cameras while they placed traps in the area, including special traps that are designed to keep the hornets alive. Officials wanted to catch live specimens so they could be tagged and released with the hopes that they would lead officials to their nests, which would then be eradicated.
Asian giant hornets can be massive, reaching a staggering two inches in length, significantly larger than a typical honeybee.
— Washington State Department of Agriculture (@WSDAgov) June 22, 2020