A star in subtropical Japan: a new species of parasitoid wasp constructs unique cocoon masses hanging on 1-meter-long strings

A new species of parasitoid wasp that constructs remarkable star-shaped cocoon masses is reported from the biodiversity hot spot Ryukyu Islands. Japanese researchers observed how the wasps construct “stars” after making their way out of the moth larvae they inhabit during their own larval stage. In their study, published in the open-access journal Journal of Hymenoptera Research, the team discuss the ecological significance of the cocoon mass and the evolution of this peculiar structure.

A unique “star” was discovered from the Ryukyu Islands, a biodiversity hot spot in subtropical Japan: a star-shaped structure that turned out to be the cocoon mass of a new species of parasitoid wasp. Researchers Shunpei Fujie (Osaka Museum of Natural History), So Shimizu, Kaoru Maeto (Kobe University), Koichi Tone (Okinawa Municipal Museum), and Kazunori Matsuo (Kyushu University) described this parasitoid wasp as a new species in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

The new parasitoid wasps, Meteorus stellatus. Photo by Fujie S

Parasitoid wasps parasitize a variety of organisms, mostly insects. They lay eggs in the host, a larva of hawk moth in this case, where the wasp larvae later hatch. After eating the host from the inside out, the larvae spin threads to form cocoons, in which they pupate, and from which the adult wasps eventually emerge. 

The larvae of Meteorus stellatus emerging from a host moth. Photo by Tone K

Larvae of the newly discovered parasitoid wasp form star-shaped masses of cocoons lined up in a spherical pattern, suspended by a thread that can reach up to 1 meter in length. The structure, 7 to 14 mm wide and 9 to 23 mm long, can accommodate over 100 cocoons.

The star-shaped cocoon mass and the cable of the new parasitoid wasps. Photo by Shimizu S

Despite its peculiarity, the wasp species constructing these masses had not been previously described: morphological observation and molecular analysis revealed that it was new to science. The authors aptly called it Meteorus stellatus, adding the Latin word for “starry” to its scientific name.

Thanks to the recent publication, we now have the first detailed report about the construction of such a remarkable cocoon mass in parasitoid wasps. We can also see what the process looks like, as the researchers were able to film the wasps escaping from the moth larvae and forming the star-shaped structure.

Why does M. stellatus form cocoons in such a unique structure?

The authors of the study believe this unique structure helps the wasps survive through the most critical time, i.e. the period of constructing cocoons and pupating, when they are exposed to various natural enemies and environmental stresses. The star shape most likely reduces the exposed area of individual cocoons, thus increasing their defense against hyper-parasitoids (wasps attacking cocoons of other parasitoid wasps), while the long thread that suspends the cocoon mass protects the cocoons from potential enemies like ants.

“How parasitoid wasps have evolved to form such unique masses instead of the common individual cocoons should be the next thing on our ‘to-research’ list,” say the authors.

Research article:

Fujie S, Shimizu S, Tone K, Matsuo K, Maeto K (2021) Stars in subtropical Japan: a new gregarious Meteorus species (Hymenoptera, Braconidae, Euphorinae) constructs enigmatic star-shaped pendulous communal cocoons. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 86: 19-45. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.86.71225

Dolichomitus meii Wasp Discovered in Amazonia Is Like a Flying Jewel

“The species’ striking colouring protects it from birds that prey on insects. They do not snatch the wasp sitting on the tree trunk as they think it will taste bad or that it is dangerous.”

Parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera) are one of the most species rich animal taxa on Earth, but their tropical diversity is still poorly known. Now, scientists have discovered the Dolichomitus meii and Polysphincta parasitoid wasp species previously unknown to science in South America. The new species found in the rainforests entice with their colours and exciting habits. Researchers at the University of Turku have already described 53 new animal species this year.

Researchers at the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku, Finland, study insect biodiversity particularly in Amazonia and Africa. In their studies, they have discovered hundreds of species previously unknown to science. Many of them are exciting in their size, appearance, or living habits.

“The species we have discovered show what magnificent surprises the Earth’s rainforests can contain. The newly discovered Dolichomitus meii wasp is particularly interesting for its large size and unique colouring. With a quick glance, its body looks black but glitters electric blue in light. Moreover, its wings are golden yellow. Therefore, you could say it’s like a flying jewel,” says Postdoctoral Researcher Diego Pádua from the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) in Brazil, who has also worked at the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku.

Dolichomitus parasitoid wasps are parasitic on insect larvae living deep in tree trunks. They lay a single egg on the insect larva and the wasp hatchling eats the host larva as it develops.  

Dolichomitus meii
The Dolichomitus meii wasp was discovered in western Amazonia. Its body looks black but glitters electric blue in light. The wasp lays its eggs on insect larvae living deep in wood. It reaches the host larvae with a long ovipositor. Picture: Filippo De Giovanni and Rodrigo Araújo

“The ovipositor of the Dolichomitus meii wasp is immensely long. It sticks the ovipositor into holes in the wood and tries to find host larvae inside. The species’ striking colouring protects it from birds that prey on insects. They do not snatch the wasp sitting on the tree trunk as they think it will taste bad or that it is dangerous,” says Professor of Biodiversity Research Ilari E. Sääksjärvi from the University of Turku.

Polysphincta Parasitoid Wasps Manipulate the Behaviour of the Host Spider

At the same time as the publication on the Dolichomitus meii species, the researchers published another research article on South American wasp species. The article describes altogether seven new wasp species belonging to the Polysphincta genus.

Polysphincta bonita refers to the species’ beautiful appearance. The species is parasitic on spiders. Picture: Diego Padúa and Ilari E. Sääksjärvi

The Polysphincta parasitoid wasps are parasitic on spiders. The female attacks a spider in its web and temporarily paralyses it with a venomous sting. After this, the wasp lays a single egg on the spider, and a larva hatches from the egg. The larva gradually consumes the spider and eventually pupates.

“The wasps that are parasitic on spiders are extremely interesting as many of them can manipulate the behaviour of the host spider. They can change the way a spider spins its web, so that before its death, the spider does not spin a normal web to catch prey. Instead, they spin a safe nest for the parasitoid wasp pupa,” describes Professor Sääksjärvi.

Researchers at University of Turku Have Already Discovered 53 New Species This Year

The new species are often discovered through extensive international collaboration. This was also the case with the newly published studies.

“For example, the discovery of the Dolichomitus meii species was an effort of six researchers. Moreover, these researchers all come from different countries,” says Professor Sääksjärvi.

The work to map out biodiversity previously unknown to science continues at the University of Turku and there are interesting species discoveries ahead.

“I just counted that, in 2021, the researchers of the Biodiversity Unit at the University of Turku have described already 53 new species from different parts of the globe – and we’re only halfway through the year,” Sääksjärvi announces cheerfully.

The discoveries of the research group were published in the Biodiversity Data Journal and ZooKeys.

Research articles:

Di Giovanni F, Pádua DG, Araujo RO, Santos AD, Sääksjärvi IE (2021) A striking new species of Dolichomitus Smith, 1877 (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae; Pimplinae) from South America. Biodiversity Data Journal 9: e67438. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.9.e67438

Pádua DG, Sääksjärvi IE, Spasojevic T, Kaunisto KM, Monteiro RF, Oliveira ML (2021) A review of the spider-attacking Polysphincta dizardi species-group (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Pimplinae), with descriptions of seven new species from South America. ZooKeys 1041: 137-165. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1041.65407

The ants, bees and wasps of Canada, Alaska and Greenland – a checklist of 9250 species

Knowing what species live in which parts of the world is critical to many fields of study, such as conservation biology and environmental monitoring. This is also how we can identify present or potential invasive and non-native pest species. Furthermore, summarizing what species are known to inhabit a given area is essential for the discovery of new species that have not yet been known to science.

American Pelecinid Wasp (Pelecinus polyturator) from Driftwood Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Henri Goulet

For less well-studied groups and regions, distributional species checklists are often not  available. Therefore, a series of such checklists is being published in the open-access, peer-reviewed Journal of Hymenoptera Research, in order to address the issue for a group of organisms that, despite its size and diversity, is still poorly known: the insect order Hymenoptera, which includes ants, bees and wasps. The surveyed area spreads across northern North America, which comprises Canada, Alaska (U.S.) and Greenland (Denmark), and occupies about 9.3% of the world’s total land mass.

The last distributional survey of Hymenoptera in North America was published in 1979, where about 6000 described species were recorded from Canada and 600 from Alaska. The current survey lists 8933 species in Canada and 1513 in Alaska, marking an increase of 49% and 152%, respectively. A total of 9250 described species are recorded from northern North America. Considering that there are approximately 154,000 described species of Hymenoptera, northern North America has about 6% of the current world total. 

A cuckoo wasp of the genus Hedychridium from Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Henri Goulet

Highlights of the series will include updated distributions of over 900 species of bees, which will provide valuable insight into native pollinators at a time when honey bees are in decline. Nearly 230 species of ants and over 100 species of vespid wasps (hornets and yellow jackets) are recorded, including pest species such as the widespread pharaoh ant and the newly invasive Asian giant hornet in British Columbia.

Pigeon tremex (Tremex columba) from Manitou Lake, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Henri Goulet

By far, the majority of species of Hymenoptera found in northern North America and the world are parasitoids, which develop on or in other invertebrate hosts and are therefore of great interest to the biological control of pests. Of the 9250 species recorded, more than three-quarters (over 7150 species) are parasitoids. These distributional lists provide essential baseline information required prior to undertaking studies to introduce biological control agents of invasive pests that may have escaped their native, natural enemies when they arrived in North America.

Megarhyssa macrura from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Henri Goulet

The topical collection “Checklists of the Hymenoptera of Canada, Alaska and Greenland” is to contain a total of eleven papers, where the introduction and the first two checklists: of sawflies (758 species) and one of the groups of “microhymenoptera” (the chalcidoid parasitic wasps) (1246 species) have just been published.The other checklists are to follow over the next several years. The associated data are also being uploaded to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), allowing for periodic updates over time.

When complete, this will be the largest species checklist for any group of organisms in northern North America. Considering that it is estimated that we currently have documented less than half of the species of Hymenoptera present in northern North America, there is still a great amount of work to do on this fascinating group of insects.

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Original sources:

Bennett AMR (2021a) Checklists of the Hymenoptera of Canada, Alaska and Greenland – Introduction. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 82: 1-19. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.82.60054

Bennett AMR (2021b) Checklist of the Hymenoptera of Canada, Alaska and Greenland. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Checklist dataset https://doi.org/10.5886/4piso5 [accessed via GBIF.org: 12 March 2021].

Goulet H, Bennett AMR (2021) Checklist of the sawflies (Hymenoptera) of Canada, Alaska and Greenland. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 82: 21-67. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.82.60057

Huber JT, Bennett AMR, Gibson GAP, Zhang YM, Darling DC (2021) Checklist of Chalcidoidea and Mymarommatoidea (Hymenoptera) of Canada, Alaska and Greenland. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 82: 69-138. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.82.60058

A new species of Darwin wasp from Mexico named in observance of the 2020 quarantine period

“We thought that it was a good idea to remember this extraordinary year through the name of one remarkable species of Darwin wasp found in seven Mexican States (including Tamaulipas, where the UAT campus is located) and also Guatemala,” comment the researchers who discovered the previously unknown species.

Scientists at the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas (UAT) in Mexico recently discovered five new species of parasitoid wasps in Mexico, but the name of one of them sounds a bit weird: covida. Why this name?

In fact, the reason is quite simple. The thing is that the team of Andrey Khalaim (also a researcher at the Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg, Russia) and Enrique Ruíz Cancino discovered the new to science species during the 2020 global quarantine period, imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their findings are described in a newly published research article, in the peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal ZooKeys.

“We thought that it was a good idea to remember this extraordinary year through the name of one remarkable species of Darwin wasp found in seven Mexican States (including Tamaulipas, where the UAT campus is located) and also Guatemala,”

explain the scientists.

The new species, which goes by the official scientific name Stethantyx covida, belongs to the Darwin wasp family Ichneumonidae, one of the most species-rich insect families, which comprises more than 25,000 species worldwide. 

“Darwin wasps are abundant and well-known almost everywhere in the world because of their beauty, gracility, and because they are used in biological control of insect pests in orchards and forests. Many Darwin wasp species attack the larvae or pupae of butterflies and moths. Yet, some species are particularly interesting, as their larvae feed on spider eggs and others, even more bizarre, develop on living spiders!”

further explain the authors of the new study.

Stethantyx covida is a small wasp that measures merely 3.5 mm in length. It is predominantly dark in colour, whereas parts of its body and legs are yellow or brown. It is highly polished and shining, and the ovipositor of the female is very long and slender.Along with Stethantyx covida, the authors also described four other Mexican species of Darwin wasps from three different genera (Stethantyx, Meggoleus, Phradis), all belonging to the subfamily Tersilochinae. Some tersilochines are common on flowers in springtime. While the majority of them are parasitoids of larvae of various beetles, some Mexican species attack sawflies, inhabiting the forests.

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Original source:

Khalaim AI, Ruíz-Cancino E (2020) Contribution to the taxonomy of Mexican Tersilochinae (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae), with descriptions of five new species. ZooKeys 974: 1-21. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.974.54536

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



Revolutionary method could bring us much closer to the description of hyperdiverse faunas

A novel approach relying on a short sequence of mitochondrial DNA in conjunction with a lateral image of the holotype specimen was proposed to greatly accelerate species identification and description, especially when it comes to hyperdiverse taxa, such as parasitic wasps.

At today’s rate, it could take another two millennia for science to document all currently existing species of multicellular life

Two hundred and sixty-one years ago, Linnaeus formalized binomial nomenclature and the modern system of naming organisms. Since the time of his first publication, taxonomists have managed to describe 1.8 million of the estimated 8 to 25 million extant species of multicellular life, somewhere between 7% and 22%. At this rate, the task of treating all species would be accomplished sometime before the year 4,000. In an age of alarming environmental crises, where taking measures for the preservation of our planet’s ecosystems through efficient knowledge is becoming increasingly urgent, humanity cannot afford such dawdling.

“Clearly something needs to change to accelerate this rate, and in this publication we propose a novel approach that employs only a short sequence of mitochondrial DNA in conjunction with a lateral image of the holotype specimen,”

explain the researchers behind a new study, published in the open-access journal Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift (DEZ).
Description rate of parasitic wasps species (superfamily
Ichneumonoidea).
Data from Taxapad (Yu et al. 2016).

In standardized practices, it is required that experts conduct plenty of time- and labor-consuming analyses, in order to provide thorough descriptions of both the morphology and genetics of individual species, as well as a long list of characteristic features found to differentiate each from any previously known ones. However, the scientists argue, at this stage, it is impossible to pinpoint distinct morphological characters setting apart all currently known species from the numerous ones not yet encountered. To make matters worse, finding human and financial resources for performing this kind of detailed research is increasingly problematic.

This holds especially true when it comes to hyperdiverse groups, such as ichneumonoid parasitoid wasps: a group of tiny insects believed to comprise up to 1,000,000 species, of which only 44,000 were recognised as valid, according to 2016 data. In their role of parasitoids, these wasps have a key impact on ecosystem stability and diversity. Additionally, many species parasitise the larvae of commercially important pests, so understanding their diversity could help resolve essential issues in agriculture.

Meanwhile, providing a specific species-unique snippet of DNA alongside an image of the specimen used for the description of the species (i.e. holotype) could significantly accelerate the process. By providing a name for a species through a formal description, researchers would allow for their successors to easily build on their discoveries and eventually reach crucial scientific conclusions.

“If this style were to be adopted by a large portion of the taxonomic community, the mission of documenting Earth’s multicellular life could be accomplished in a few generations, provided these organisms are still here,”

say the authors of the study.

To exemplify their revolutionary approach, the scientists use their paper to also describe a total of 18 new species of wasps in two genera (Zelomorpha and Hemichoma) known from Área de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Currently, the team works on the treatment of related species, which still comprise only a portion of the hundreds of thousands that remain unnamed.

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Original source:

Meierotto S, Sharkey MJ, Janzen DH, Hallwachs W, Hebert PDN, Chapman EG, Smith MA (2019) A revolutionary protocol to describe understudied hyperdiverse taxa and overcome the taxonomic impediment. Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 66(2): 119-145. https://doi.org/10.3897/dez.66.34683

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

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

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