All microgastrinae wasps from around the world finally together in a 1,089-page monograph

With 3,000 known species and thousands more left to describe, the wasps of the subfamily Microgastrinae are the single most important group of parasitoids attacking the larvae of butterflies and moths, many of which are economically important pests. Consequently, these wasps have a significant impact on both the world’s economy and biodiversity.

Due to their affinities, these wasps are widely used in biological control programs to manage agricultural and forestry pests around the globe. Further, they have also been prominently featured in many basic and applied scientific research (e.g. chemical ecology, biodiversity studies, conservation biology, genomics, behavioural ecology). However, the information about Microgastrinae species is scattered across hundreds of papers, some of which are difficult to find. To make matters worse, there has never been an authoritative checklist of the group at a planetary scale.

All currently available information about the group is now brought together in a large monograph of 1,089 pages, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys. The publication presents a total of 2,999 valid extant species belonging to 82 genera. On top of that, the monograph features fossil species and genera, unavailable names and the institutions that store the primary types of all listed species.

Moreover, the researchers have included extensive colour illustrations of all genera and many species (thousands of images in 250 image plates); brief characterisation and diagnosis of all genera; detailed species distributions (within biogeographical regions and per individual country); synopsis of what is known on host-parasitoid associations; summary of available DNA barcodes; estimations of the group diversity at world and regional levels; as well as notes on individual species upon request.

“Compiling this annotated checklist was, more than anything, a labour of love,”

says Dr. Jose Fernandez-Triana of the Canadian National Collection of Insects, lead author of the paper.

Monograph paper openly published in ZooKeys at
https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.920.39128

“For the past six or seven years, we have spent thousands of hours pouring through hundreds of publications, reading original descriptions in old manuscripts, checking type specimens in many collections worldwide, exchanging information with colleagues from all continents. For the past year or so, I basically stopped all other ongoing research projects I was involved with, to focus solely (almost obsessively!) on finishing this manuscript. The work was often tedious and mind-numbing, and many times I had the temptation to delay the completion of the paper for a later time. However, I was lucky that the other co-authors were just as passionate as myself, and we all pushed each other to finish the task when energy ran low.”

Fifteen species of microgastrinae wasps showing the incredible diversity within the subfamily. Note the variety of colours and shapes.
Image by Dr. Jose Fernandez-Triana

“For the past few years, the Microgastrinae wasps have been one of the most intensively studied groups of insects, at least from a taxonomic perspective,” he adds. “Just to give you an idea: between 2014 and 2019 a total of 720 new species of Microgastrinae were described worldwide. That is an average of one new species every three days, sustained over a six-year period and showing no signs of slowing down.”

He also points out that many scientists from many different countries and biogeographical regions have been involved in the description of the new species. The paper recognises them all and their contributions in the Acknowledgements section.

“You could even say that we are witnessing a renaissance in the study of this group of wasps. However, even then, what has been done is only the tip of the iceberg, as we estimated that only 5 to 10% of all Microgastrinae species have been described. That means that we do not have a name, let alone detailed knowledge, for 90-95% of the remaining species out there. Perhaps, there could be up to 50,000 Microgastrinae wasp species worldwide. It is truly humbling when you consider the magnitude of the work that lies ahead.”

Yet, it is not only a matter of counting huge numbers of species. More importantly, many of those species either have already been put in use as biocontrol agents against a wide range of agricultural and forestry pests, or have the potential to be in the future.

For applied scientists, working with hyperdiverse and poorly known groups such as Microgastrinae is even more perplexing. Navigating the maze of old names, synonyms (species described more than one time under different names), homonyms (same names applied to different species), or unavailable names (names that do not conform to the rules of the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature) is a daunting task. Often, that results in the same species being referred to in several different ways by different authors and academic works. Consequently, many historical references are full of misleading or even plainly wrong information. Meanwhile, it is very difficult to seek out the useful and correct information.

The present annotated checklist could work as a basic reference for anyone working with or interested in the parasitoid wasps of the subfamily Microgastrinae. In the future, the authors hope to produce revised editions, thus continuing to incorporate new information as it is generated, and to also correct possible mistakes.

“We welcome all kinds of criticisms and suggestions. And we hope that biocontrol practitioners will also help us, the taxonomists, to improve future versions of this work. However, for the time being, let me say that it is a tremendous relief to get this first version out!”

concludes Dr. Fernandez-Triana.

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Original source:

Fernandez-Triana J, Shaw MR, Boudreault C, Beaudin M, Broad GR (2020) Annotated and illustrated world checklist of Microgastrinae parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera, Braconidae). ZooKeys 920: 1-1089. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.920.39128.

How quickly do flower strips in cities help the local bees?

Insects rely on a mix of floral resources for survival. Populations of bees, butterflies, and flies are currently rapidly decreasing due to the loss of flower-rich meadows. In order to deal with the widespread loss of fauna, the European Union supports “greening” measures, for example, the creation of flower strips.

A group of scientists from the University of Munich, led by Prof. Susanne S. Renner, has conducted the first quantitative assessment of the speed and distance over which urban flower strips attract wild bees, and published the results of the study in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

Flower strips are human-made patches of flowering plants that provide resources for flower-visiting insects and insect- and seed-feeding birds. Previous experiments have proved their conservation value for enhancing biodiversity in agricultural landscapes.

The success of flower strips in maintaining populations of solitary bees depends on the floristic composition, distance from suitable nesting sites, and distance from other habitats maintaining stable populations of bees. To study the attractiveness of the flower strips in urban landscapes, the scientists used an experimental set-up of nine 1,000 sq. meters flower strips recently established in Munich by a local bird conservation agency.

“We identified and counted the bees visiting flowers on each strip and then related these numbers to the total diversity of Munich’s bee fauna and to the diversity at different distances from the strips. Our expectation was that newly planted flower strips would attract a small subset of mostly generalist, non-threatened species and that oligolectic species (species using pollen from a taxonomically restricted set of plants) would be underrepresented compared to the city’s overall species pool,”

shared Prof. Susanne S. Renner.

Bees need time to discover new habitats, but the analysis showed that the city’s wild bees managed to do that in just one year so that the one-year-old flower strips attracted one-third of the 232 species recorded in Munich between 1997 and 2017.

Surprisingly, the flower strips attracted a random subset of Munich’s bee species in terms of pollen specialization. At the same time, as expected, the first-year flower-strip visitors mostly belonged to common, non-threatened species.

The results of the study support that flower strip plantings in cities provide extra support for pollinators and act as an effective conservation measure. The authors therefore strongly recommend the flower strip networks implemented in the upcoming Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform in the European Union.

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Original source:

Hofmann MM, Renner SS (2020) One-year-old flower strips already support a quarter of a city’s bee species. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 75: 87-95. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.75.47507

Faster than a speeding bullet: Asian hornet invasion spreads to Northern Germany

Known to prey on many insects, including honey bees and other beneficiary species, the Asian hornet, which had recently invaded parts of Europe, presents a serious threat to apiculture and even to ecosystems. In their paper, published in the open-access journal Evolutionary Systematics, German scientists share concerns about this fast invader spreading to the north. In early September 2019, a single specimen was collected alive in Hamburg (Germany), representing the northernmost find of the species so far.

In early September 2019, an Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) was collected alive in Hamburg, Germany, representing the northernmost find of the species so far in Europe and indicating its further spread to the north. The paper by the research group from Hamburg, which also serves to update the occurrence of the dangerous invader, was published in the open-access journal Evolutionary Systematics

Known to prey on many insects, including honey bees and other beneficiary species, the Asian hornet, which had already invaded parts of Southern and Central Europe, is a potential threat to apiculture and even to ecosystems. 

The first specimen was captured in south-western France in 2005 and started to spread quickly. Over the next years, it invaded large parts of France and regions of Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Great Britain and south-western parts of Germany. The estimated invasion speed for France has been estimated at around 78 km/year, but in reality, the species spread might be occurring much faster due to anthropogenic factors.

It’s not yet clear if the collected Asian hornet belonged to an already settled population or it’s rather the first record of a new invasion. Nevertheless, considering the fast invasion speed of the species and its relatively high climatic tolerance, it’s quite possible that it had reached Hamburg on natural routes and now reproduces there.

Even though other models suggest that the Hamburg area is not suitable for the species today, the new find might be a sign that the Asian hornet has begun spreading at a speed above that previously known and even in climatically less favourable regions.

“Therefore, the current find needs to be taken seriously, no matter if it is only a single specimen or a member of an established population”, shares the lead researcher Martin Husemann from Centrum für Naturkunde, University of Hamburg.

Invasive species are one of the great challenges in the modern world. Their occurrence can be considered as one of the key important ecological and evolutionary drivers.

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Original source:
Husemann M, Sterr A, Maack S, Abraham R (2020) The northernmost record of the Asian hornet Vespa velutina nigrithorax (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Evolutionary Systematics 4(1): 1-4.
https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.4.47358



19th-century bee cells in a Panamanian cathedral shed light on human impact on ecosystems

About 120 clusters of 19th-century orchid bee nests were found during restoration work on the altarpiece of Basilica Cathedral in Casco Viejo (Panamá). Having conducted the first pollen analysis for these extremely secretive insects, the researchers identified the presence of 48 plant species, representing 23 families.

Casco Viejo, Panamá in 1875, as seen from the summit of Cerro Ancón.
A white tower of the Cathedral where bees were nesting is visible in the distant background in the centre of the peninsula.
Photo by Eadweard Muybridge, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of Mitchell and Nancy Steir.

Despite being “neotropical-forest-loving creatures,” some orchid bees are known to tolerate habitats disturbed by human activity. However, little did the research team of Paola Galgani-Barraza (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) expect to find as many as 120 clusters of nearly two-centuries-old orchid bee nests built on the altarpiece of the Basilica Cathedral in Casco Viejo (Panamá). Their findings are published in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

Locations of nest cell aggregations of Eufriesea surinamensis within the Cathedral in Casco Viejo, Panamá
Photo by Paola Galgani-Barraza

This happened after restoration work, completed in 2018 in preparation for the consecration of a new altar by Pope Francis, revealed the nests. Interestingly, many cells were covered with gold leaf and other golden material applied during an earlier restoration following an 1870 fire, thus aiding the reliable determination of the age of the clusters. The cells were dated to the years prior to 1871-1876.

The bee species, that had once constructed the nests, was identified as the extremely secretive Eufriesea surinamensis. Females are known to build their nests distant from each other, making them very difficult to locate in the field. As a result, there is not much known about them: neither about the floral resources they collect for food, nor about the materials they use to build their nests, nor about the plants they pollinate.

However, by analysing the preserved pollen for the first time for this species, the researchers successfully detected the presence of 48 plant species, representing 43 genera and 23 families. Hence, they concluded that late-nineteenth century Panama City was surrounded by a patchwork of tropical forests, sufficient to sustain nesting populations of what today is a forest-dwelling species of bee.

Not only did the scientists unveil important knowledge about the biology of orchid bees and the local floral diversity in the 19th century, but they also began to uncover key information about the functions of natural ecosystems and their component species, where bees play a crucial role as primary pollinators. Thus, the researchers hope to reveal how these environments are being modified by collective human behaviour, which is especially crucial with the rapidly changing environment that we witness today.

The orchid bee Eufriesea surinamensis
Photo by Paola Galgani-Barraza

Original source:

Galgani-Barraza P, Moreno JE, Lobo S, Tribaldos W, Roubik DW, Wcislo WT (2019) Flower use by late nineteenth-century orchid bees (Eufriesea surinamensis, Hymenoptera, Apidae) nesting in the Catedral Basílica Santa María la Antigua de Panamá. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 74: 65-81. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.74.39191

Two new species of parasitic wasps described from an altitude of over 3,400 m in Tibet

Specimens kept in the collection of the Institute of Beneficial Insects at the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (FAFU, China) revealed the existence of two previously unknown species of endoparasitoid wasps. Originally collected in 2013, the insects are known to inhabit prairies and bushes at above 3,400 m, which is quite an unusual altitude for this group of wasps.

The new to science wasps are described and illustrated in a paper published in the open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal ZooKeys by the team of Dr Wangzhen Zhang (FAFU and Fuzhou Airport Inspection and Quarantine Bureau) and his colleagues at FAFU: Dr Dongbao Song and Prof Jiahua Chen.

Looking very similar to each other, the species were found to belong to one and the same genus (Microplitis), which, however, is clearly distinct from any other within the subfamily, called Microgastrinae. The latter group comprises tiny, mostly black or brown wasps that develop in the larvae of specific moths or butterflies. Interestingly, once parasitised, the host continues living and does not even terminate its own growth. It is only killed when the wasp eggs hatch and feed on its organs and body fluids before spinning cocoons.

From now on, the newly described wasps will be called by the scientific names Microplitis paizhensis and Microplitis bomiensis, where their species names refer to the localities from where they were originally collected: Paizhen town and Bomi county, respectively.

Due to their parasitism, some microgastrine wasps are considered important pest biocontrol agents. Unfortunately, the hosts of the newly described species remain unknown.

In addition, the scientists also mention a third new to science species spotted amongst the specimens they studied. However, so far they have only found its male, whereas a reliable description of a new microgastrine wasp requires the presence of a female.

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Original source:

Zhang W, Song D, Chen J (2019) Two new species of the genus Microplitis Förster, 1862 (Hymenoptera, Braconidae, Microgastrinae) from China. ZooKeys 859: 49-61. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.859.31720

Non-native pest-controlling wasp identified in Canada prior to formal approval

A samurai wasp (Trissolcus japonicus) lays an egg inside a brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) egg. The samurai wasp’s offspring will develop inside the pest’s egg and emerge as an adult wasp. Photo by Warren Wong.

Thought to be Canada’s most promising potential defense against the brown marmorated stink bug – a globally spreading agricultural pest native to Asia – the samurai wasp (another species from Asia and natural parasitoid of the former) has been considered for future release in the country in recent years.

However, prior to any formal decision and regulatory approval, the parasitoid, which is known to be specialized on stink bug eggs, was identified at a heavily infested site in Chilliwack, British Columbia, during a survey of the local enemies of the bug, conducted by a research team led by Dr. Paul Abram of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Their findings are published in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

Native to China, Japan, Taiwan and the Korean peninsula, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) has already established in areas of the United States and Europe and continues to spread. It is highly damaging to a wide range of vegetable and fruit crops, including peaches, apples, pears, soybeans, cherries, raspberries and pears. Curiously, those infested areas in both the USA and Europe also saw the arrival of the samurai wasp (Trissolcus japonicus) amid assessments whether releasing samurai wasps in the wild should be warranted.

“Classical (importation) biological control of invasive pests, where natural enemies are imported and intentionally introduced from a pest’s area of origin, involves years of research to assess risks and benefits of proposed introductions, followed by regulatory approval,” explain the researchers in their paper.

“However, there is increasing recognition that unintentional introductions of natural enemies are probably common, introducing a high level of uncertainty to the regulatory process for biological control introductions.”

In two consecutive years (2017 and 2018), the team of Dr Abram placed a total of 1,496 egg masses (41,351 eggs) of brown marmorated stink bugs at 16 field sites in coastal and interior British Columbia – already known to host large and well-established breeding populations of the species – in order to monitor and identify the local enemies of the pest. Later on, when the researchers retrieved the eggs and studied their parasitoids, they found three native wasp species, but their parasitism appeared largely unsuccessful.

Female samurai wasp (Trissolcus japonicus) collected from Chilliwack, British Columbia. Photo by Elijah Talamas.

According to the scientists, as well as previous studies conducted in both the USA and Europe, native wasps would often lay their eggs in those of the brown marmorated stink bug, but their larvae would rarely complete development. Even when they emerged, they were unlikely to produce their own offspring.

In one of the egg masses, however, the scientists noted that all eggs had been parasitized and, moreover, each produced a viable wasp. Later, the offspring would register a success of >90% in parasitizing brown marmorated stink bug eggs. Following these observations, the team identified these parasitoids as samurai wasps.

While the species is currently being redistributed within some US states on purpose, samurai wasp populations advancing to other localities suggest that much like its host, the parasitoid is also becoming a “global invader”. Therefore, it is quite possible that the samurai wasps in British Columbia have simply crossed a distance of >400 km from nearby Washington State, and the wasp is still at the early stages of its establishment in Canada.

“Nonetheless, the detection of this exotic biological control agent in Canada concurrently with regulatory review of its intentional importation and release is emblematic of the current uncertainty around regulatory control on the movement of biological control agents across borders,” comment the authors of the study.

Field surveys and extensive analyses are currently underway to track the establishment and biological control impact of the samurai wasp in Canada and also reveal how the species ended up in British Columbia.

 

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Original source:

Abram PK, Talamas EJ, Acheampong S, Mason PG, Gariepy TD (2019) First detection of the samurai wasp, Trissolcus japonicus (Ashmead) (Hymenoptera, Scelionidae), in Canada. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 68: 29-36. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.68.32203

Advanced computer technology & software turn species identification interactive

Important group of biocontrol wasps from Central Europe are used to demonstrate the perks and advantages of modern, free-to-use software

Representing a group of successful biocontrol agents for various pest fruit flies, a parasitic wasp genus remains largely overlooked. While its most recent identification key dates back to 1969, many new species have been added since then. As if to make matters worse, this group of visually identical species most likely contains many species yet to be described as new to science.

Having recently studied a species group of these wasps in Central Europe, scientists Fabian Klimmek and Hannes Baur of the Natural History Museum Bern, Switzerland, not only demonstrate the need for a knowledge update, but also showcase the advantages of modern taxonomic software able to analyse large amounts of descriptive and quantitative data.

Published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal, the team’s taxonomic paper describes a new species – Pteromalus capito – and presents a discussion on the free-to-use Xper3, developed by the Laboratory of Informatics and Systematics of Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University. The software was used to create an openly available updated key for the species group Pteromalus albipennis.

The fully illustrated interactive database covers 27 species in the group and 18 related species, in addition to a complete diagnosis, a large set of body measurements and a total of 585 images, displaying most of the characteristic features for each species.

“Nowadays, advanced computer technology, measurement procedures and equipment allow more sophisticated ways to include quantitative characters, which greatly enhance the delimitation of cryptic species,” explain the scientists.

“Recently developed software for the creation of biological identification keys like Xper3, Lucid or Delta could have the potential to replace traditional paper-based keys.”

To put the statement into context, the authors give an example with one of the studied wasp species, whose identification would take 16 steps if the previously available identification key were used, whereas only 6 steps were needed with the interactive alternative.

One of the reasons tools like Xper3 are so fast and efficient is that the key’s author can list all descriptive characters in a specific order and give them different weight in species delimitation. Thus, whenever an entomologist tries to identify a wasp specimen, the software will first run a check against the descriptors at the top, so that it can exclude non-matching taxons and provide a list of the remaining names. Whenever multiple names remain, a check further down the list is performed, until there is a single one left, which ought to be the one corresponding to the specimen. At any point, the researcher can access the chronology, in order to check for any potential mismatches without interrupting the process.

Being the product of digitally available software, interactive identification keys are not only easy, quick and inexpensive to publish, but they are also simple to edit and build on in a collaborative manner. Experts from all around the world could update the key, as long as the author grants them specific user rights. However, regardless of how many times the database is updated, a permanent URL link will continue to provide access to the latest version at all times.

To future-proof their key and its underlying data, the scientists have deposited all raw data files, R-scripts, photographs, files listing and prepared specimens at the research data Zenodo, created by OpenAIRE and CERN.

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Original source:

Klimmek F, Baur H (2018) An interactive key to Central European species of the Pteromalus albipennis species group and other species of the genus (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea: Pteromalidae), with the description of a new species. Biodiversity Data Journal 6: e27722. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.6.e27722

Total of 21 new parasitoid wasps following the first ever revision of their genus

As many as twenty-one species of parasitoid wasps are described as new to science, following the first ever revision of their genus since its establishment back in 1893.

The study simultaneously updates the count of species within the genus (Chromoteleia) to 27 in total, produces a systematic revision of the world’s representatives of this group of wasps, expands their biogeographic knowledge, and clarifies their generic concept.

The monograph is published in the open access journal ZooKeys by a team of US and Canadian scientists, led by Hua-yan Chen, graduate student at the Ohio State University.

The wasps in the genus Chromoteleia are easily distinguished thanks to their large size in combination with their vivid colouration. Compared to other species in the family of platygastrid wasps, which normally measure merely 1 – 2 mm in length, the species in the studied genus range between 3 and 9 mm. Their uncommonly large, robust and elongated bodies is why the scientists assume that these wasps likely parasitise the eggs of orthopterans, such as grasshoppers, crickets and katydids.

A focal point in the study is the intriguing distribution of the wasps. While the genus is widespread throughout continental Mesoamerica, Central America and South America, and its distribution ranges from the Mexican state of Jalisco in the north all the way to Itapúa Department in Paraguay and Paraná in southern Brazil, the species C. congoana is a lone representative of the genus in Africa.

The ‘lone’ African representative of the genus, Chromoteleia congoana.

While dispersal from South America to Africa has been observed in the past in another genus of parasitoid wasps (Kapala), the scientists are not willing to reject the possibility of Chromoteleia wasps having been widely distributed across the Old World during a previous geological epoch. Such phenomenon, also known as a relict population, would not mean that the wasp group has subsequently ‘conquered’ the Neotropics and current species inhabiting the New World are rather remainders of once widespread insects.

To conclude their findings, the scientists examined specimens hosted in collections at twenty natural history institutions from around the globe, including the American Entomological InstituteAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryBernice P. Bishop MuseumCalifornia Academy of SciencesCanadian National Collection of InsectsCalifornia State Collection of ArthropodsFlorida State Collection of ArthropodsInstituto Alexander von HumboldtIllinois Natural History SurveyKansas University’s Natural History MuseumMuseo del Instituto de Museo del Instituto de Zoologia AgricolaMuseum National d’Histoire NaturelleMuseu Paraense Emílio GoeldiLund Museum of Zoology at Lund UniversityTriplehorn Insect Collection at the Ohio State UniversitySouth African MuseumTexas A&M University’s Insect CollectionBohart Museum of EntomologyUniversity of Colorado; and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

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Original source:

Chen H-y, Talamas EJ, Valerio AA, Masner L, Johnson NF (2018) Revision of the World species of the genus Chromoteleia Ashmead (Hymenoptera, Platygastridae, Scelioninae). ZooKeys 778: 1-95. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.778.25775

Towards untangling the ‘antennal grabbing’ phenomenon in mating cuckoo bees

Scientists report this behavior for the first time in the genus Nomada, following both lab and field observations in Germany

One can seldom spot a cuckoo bee, whose peculiar kleptoparasitic behaviour includes laying eggs in the nests of a certain host bee species, let alone a couple mating.

Nevertheless, German scientists – Dr. Matthias Schindler, University of Bonn, Michaela Hofmann and Dr. Susanne S. Renner of the University of Munich, and Dr. Dieter Wittmann, recently managed to record copulation in three different cuckoo bee species in the genus Nomada.

Intriguingly, in field and lab settings alike, the observed couples demonstrated the phenomenon the researchers called “antennal grabbing” where the male cuckoo bee winds his antennae around

Insertion phase of copulation in a couple of the species Nomada flavoguttata. Note the male’s antennae spirally entangling the female’s.

the female’s during copulation, thus transferring pheromones. Even though such behaviour is relatively common in Hymenoptera, this is the first known record for the genus Nomada.

While the particular biological reason for the “antennal grabbing” in different species remains unsettled, the scientists discuss the phenomenon in view of both previous hypotheses and their own observations in a new paper published in the open access Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

The courtship in Nomada cuckoo bee starts with the ‘swarming’ of males at willow shrubs and gooseberry or their patrolling in groups with males of the Andrena or Melitta species that will “foster” their offspring.

Two males of the species Nomada flavoguttata patrolling at a blossom of a common dandelion.

There is no aggression among the males. They were observed to rub their bellies and heads against the grass, in order to leave sexual pheromones, thus marking the “dating spot” for potential mates.

Earlier chemical studies of Nomada bees noted that the mandibular glands of males produce chemical compounds identical with those of their Andrena or Melitta hosts, leading to the suggestion that the males transfer pheromones that help the females mimic the odor of the host bee, and later enter its nest unnoticed to lay its eggs. An alternative explanation for the “antennal grabbing” is that males are spraying a substance onto the females to make them unattractive to other potential mates.

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Original source:

Schindler M, Hofmann MM, Wittmann D, Renner SS (2018) Courtship behaviour in the genus Nomada – antennal grabbing and possible transfer of male secretions. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 65: 47-59. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.65.24947

Journal of Hymenoptera Research links Crocodile Dundee, Toblerone, Game of Thrones & Alien

A myriad of species and genera new to science, including economically important wasps drawing immediate attention because of their amusing names and remarkable physical characters, in addition to work set to lay the foundations for future taxonomic and conservation research, together comprise the latest 64th issue of Journal of Hymenoptera Research (JHR).

The species Qrocodiledundee outbackense

Two genera (Qrocodiledundee and Tobleronius) named after the action comedy Crocodile Dundee and the chocolate brand Toblerone are only a couple of the 14 new genera from the monograph of the microgastrine wasps of the world’s tropical regions, authored by Dr Jose Fernandez-Triana and Caroline Boudreault of the Canadian National Collection of insects in Ottawa. In their article, the team also describes a total of 29 new species, where five of them carry the names of institutions holding some of the most outstanding wasp collections.

Another curiously named species of microgastrine wasp described in the new JHR issue, is called Eadya daenerys in reference to Daenerys Targaryen, a fictional character known from the best-selling book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, and the blockbuster TV show Game of Thrones. Discovered by University of Central Florida‘s Ryan Ridenbaugh, Erin Barbeau and Dr Barbara Sharanowski as a result of a collaboration between biocontrol researchers and taxonomists, the new species might not be in control of three dragons, nor a ruler or protector of whole nations. However, by being a potential biocontrol agent against a particular group of leaf beetle pests, it could spare the lives of many eucalyptus plantations around the world.

The species Tobleronius orientalis

Furthermore, a wasp named Dolichogenidea xenomorph, which parasitises other eucalyptus pests, is also named after a character from a sought-after franchise. The scriptwriters of the horror sci-fi movie series Alien are thought to have been thinking of parasitic wasps when they came up with the character Xenomorph, remind authors Erinn Fagan-Jeffries, Dr Steven Cooper and Dr Andrew Austin. Additionally, the team from University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum point out that the species name translates to ‘strange form’ in Greek, which perfectly suits the characteristic remarkably long ovipositor of the new wasp.

The species Eadya daenerys

In another paper of the same journal issue, Dr. Jean-Luc Boevé, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Diego Domínguez, Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, Ecuador, and Dr David Smith, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, USA, publish an illustrated list of the wasp-related sawflies, which they collected from northern Ecuador a few years ago. They also provide a checklist of the country’s species.

In conclusion, the fifth paper, authored by Serbian scientists Dr Milana Mitrovic Institute for Plant Protection and Environment, and Prof Zeljko

The species Dolichogenidea xenomorph

Tomanovic, University of Belgrade, studies ways to extract DNA from dry parasitoid wasps from the natural history archives decades after their preservation. In their work, they make it clear that such projects are of great importance for future taxonomic and conservation research, as well as agriculture.

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The open access Journal of Hymenoptera Research is published bimonthly by the scholarly publisher Pensoft on behalf of the International Society of Hymenopterists.

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Original sources:

Boeve; J, Dominguez D, Smith D (2018) Sawflies from northern Ecuador and a checklist for the country (Hymenoptera: Argidae, Orussidae, Pergidae, Tenthredinidae, Xiphydriidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 64: 1-24. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.64.24408

Ridenbaugh RD, Barbeau E, Sharanowski BJ (2018) Description of four new species of Eadya (Hymenoptera, Braconidae), parasitoids of the Eucalyptus Tortoise Beetle (Paropsis charybdis) and other Eucalyptus defoliating leaf beetles. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 64: 141-175. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.64.24282

Fagan-Jeffries EP, Cooper SJB, Austin AD (2018) Three new species of Dolichogenidea Viereck (Hymenoptera, Braconidae, Microgastrinae) from Australia with exceptionally long ovipositors. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 64: 177-190. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.64.25219

Boeve; J, Dominguez D, Smith D (2018) Sawflies from northern Ecuador and a checklist for the country (Hymenoptera: Argidae, Orussidae, Pergidae, Tenthredinidae, Xiphydriidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 64: 1-24. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.64.24408

Mitrovic M, Tomanovic Z (2018) New internal primers targeting short fragments of the mitochondrial COI region for archival specimens from the subfamily Aphidiinae (Hymenoptera, Braconidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 64: 191-210. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.64.25399