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Hornets have a new name in Washington state.
Also known as the Asian giant hornet, the invasive insect is classified as the northern giant hornet by the Entomological Society of America (ESA).
The name has been added to the ESA’s Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms List.
Experts from the Washington State Department of Agriculture have announced they will agree to ESA’s naming scheme for the Vespa mandarinia species on Monday, July 25.
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Printed and digital resources mentioning killer hornets or Asian giant hornets are updated to say northern giant hornet instead.
The update of the “newly established ESA common name” will be reflected “in the coming weeks”, the agriculture department said.
“The new official names are intended to comply with ESA guidelines for common insect names, which include avoiding naming insects by geographic regions,” the department’s press release said.
It continued, “The new names should also reduce confusion between V. mandarinia — which was known as the Asian giant hornet — and V. velutina — which was known as the Asian hornet.”
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dr. Chris Looney, an entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Olympia Lab, was involved in renaming the hornet.
He is said to have suggested the name of the northern giant hornet, and he has also suggested that the species Vespa soror should be called the southern giant hornet and that the Vespa velutina species should be called the yellow-legged hornet to minimize confusion.
Resources on the USDA still refer to northern giant hornets as Asian giant hornets.
The hornet species often targets honeybees, but can sometimes sting humans.
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“Asian giant hornets (northern giant hornets) are extremely large hornets that range in size from 1.5 to over 2 inches in length,” according to the USDA. “They are equipped with relatively massive jaws (teeth) and can easily tear honeybees in half.”
“Usually, these hornets will not attack honeybees until late summer or early fall, when workers feed new queens and males within the colony that will appear in the fall to mate,” the USDA continued.
In the winter of 2019, the northern giant hornets were first spotted in Washington. By 2020, reports of the insect became widespread across North America, including the US and British Columbia, Canada.
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Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologists have so far eradicated four northern giant wasp nests.