OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Entomological Society of America (ESA) has adopted “northern giant hornet” for the species Vespa mandarinia in its Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms List. While there was no official ESA common name until now, the hornet has been most often referred to as “Asian giant hornet” or “murder hornet” since its introduction in North America became widely known in 2020.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is following ESA’s recommendation and will begin referring to V. mandarinia as “northern giant hornet” and will also update its website and printed materials to reflect the newly established ESA common name in the coming weeks.
The proposal to establish an ESA common name for V. mandarinia came from Dr. Chris Looney, who has been actively involved in WSDA’s hornet research and efforts to eradicate northern giant hornet from Washington.
In conjunction with “northern giant hornet,” ESA also adopted Dr. Looney’s proposals for “southern giant hornet” as the common name for the species Vespa soror and “yellow-legged hornet” for Vespa velutina. Vespa soror is a closely related—and similarly large—species to V. mandarinia, and the descriptors “northern” and “southern” refer to the species’ native geographic ranges in Asia.
The new official common names are intended to comply with ESA’s insect common names guidelines, which include avoiding naming insects using geographic regions. The new names should also help reduce confusion between V. mandarinia – which had been known as Asian giant hornet – and V. velutina – which had been known as the Asian hornet.
The northern giant hornet is an invasive hornet native to Asia that has been the target of eradication efforts in Washington state, USA, and British Columbia, Canada after individual hornets were first discovered in both locations in 2019. WSDA entomologists have eradicated four northern giant hornet nests since they were first discovered in the state.
Learn more about the northern giant hornet on WSDA’s hornet webpage.