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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

Research Project: Systematics of Parasitic and Herbivorous Wasps of Agricultural Importance

Location: Systematic Entomology

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
ARS is interested in performing research on the systematics and natural history of parasitic and herbivorous wasps to discover and describe new beneficial and pest species, facilitate their identification, understand and predict their impact on agricultural commodities and products, and disseminate biosystematic information on them to an international clientele. This Project Plan has five objectives that relate directly to this: (1) Evaluate and revise the Neotropical genera (~40) of Eurytomidae (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea), compile diagnostics and images for an identification key, and write descriptions of new taxa; (2) Document and analyze the world species (~20) of Symphya (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), write descriptions of new species, compile diagnostics and images for an identification key, and infer a phylogeny; (3) Document and analyze the world species (~80) of Diglyphosematini (Cynipoidea: Figitidae), write descriptions of new species, compile diagnostics and images for an identification key, and infer a phylogeny; (4) Develop web-accessible databases of natural history information and identification keys for parasitic and herbivorous wasps, identify hymenopterans for USDA-ARS, USDA-APHIS, and other state and federal researchers and action agencies, and manage and provide access to parasitic and herbivorous wasps in the National Insect Collection at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (NMNH); and (5) Discover, describe, and prepare identification aids for parasitic wasps attacking stem-feeding insects in wheat in North America.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
ARS will use the following methods for this research: High resolution digital images will be used to construct digital multi-entry taxonomic keys that can be viewed on the world wide web or cd-rom; DNA sequencing will be developed and employed for cryptic species identification; natural history collections will be visited and collaborations developed with other researchers to acquire wasp specimens; sampling in the field may occur to obtain wasp specimens and discover host plant-host-parasitoid relationships; morphological data will be acquired and analyzed from specimens through light and electron microscopy; genomic data will be acquired and analyzed from specimens through DNA extraction, amplification, and sequencing; matrices of morphological and molecular data will be compiled and analyzed to generate descriptions for wasp groups and species, hypotheses of evolutionary relationships, and identification tools (e.g., interactive keys); type specimens will be examined to correctly assign names to wasp groups and species; diagnostic characters will be illustrated through light and electron microscopy; biosystematic information will be compiled (e.g., diagnostic data, images, host use) and delivered to customers via open-access websites on the Internet. Identifications and biosystematic information for hymenopterans will be delivered to customers such as USDA-ARS, USDA-APHIS, and other state and federal researchers and action agencies using available literature and through comparison with specimens in the National Insect Collection.


3.Progress Report:
The scientists on this project described 16 new species and reported six new hosts under this project in FY2013. Identification keys were disseminated for differentiating 37 genera and 50 species. Evolutionary relationships among 22 families, 78 subfamilies, and 268 genera were discerned through analysis of morphological and molecular characters. Species treated included wasps that parasitize plant-feeding insects, including wood-borers and herbivores, as well as gall-inducing wasps that feed on plant tissue. In addition to research on wasp taxonomy and evolutionary relationships, the scientists reported (with colleagues) research on the natural history of wasps parasitic on emerald ash borer, as well as a moth established in Florida for classical biocontrol of Old World climbing fern.

Progress was made toward revising the Neotropical genera of Eurytomidae and monographing the world species of Symphya and Diglyphosematini, three groups containing parasitic and plant-feeding wasps. Specimens, including ~250 reared from host plants, were acquired, as were scanning electron micrographs of anatomical features. Morphospecies were delimited for the specimens acquired, and morphological characters were evaluated and scored. Specimen exchanges were maintained with collaborators worldwide for continued acquisition of specimens from all three groups.

Progress was made toward a survey of, and development of identification tools for, wasps parasitic on stem-feeding insects in wheat and wild grasses in the northern Great Plains of the U.S. Approximately 275 wasps specimens reared from stem-feeding insects were acquired from a collaborator in Montana and delimited into morphospecies.

The scientists completed 573 identification requests from personnel with USDA-ARS, USDA-APHIS, other state and federal agencies, and public and private institutions. This resulted in identification of 2,363 specimens. Approximately 192 transactions (i.e., requests, returns, gifts, disposals) of specimens belonging to the National Insect Collection (NIC) were handled, including specimens loaned to scientists worldwide conducting research on parasitic and plant-feeding wasps. Approximately 1,000 images were captured for ~250 wasp primary type specimens in the NIC for use in developing a searchable open-access Internet database of NIC primary type specimens and their associated data. Database schema was modified to allow linking between the database and resources such as image databases.


4.Accomplishments
1. Revision of a genus of Neotropical parasitic wasps. Parasitic wasps attack pest insects that cause billions of dollars of damage annually. They also attack parasitic and predatory insects, and this can have a positive or negative impact on biological or natural control. The wasps treated in this research attack flies parasitic on caterpillars feeding on tropical plants in the Western Hemisphere, including a plant listed as nearly threatened. Increased knowledge of these wasps helps determine how interactions among wasps, flies, and caterpillars affect plant populations. Hosts were reported for the wasps for the first time. Six new species were described, 13 new distribution records were reported, and a key for identifying 11 species was provided. This research is useful to scientists conducting research on this genus of wasps and their hosts, as well as personnel involved in plant conservation.

2. Survey of species in Eastern Deciduous Forest of North America for a family of parasitic wasps. Parasitic wasps attack crop and forest pests that cause billions of dollars of damage annually. The parasitic wasps treated in this research attack plant-feeding insects, including wood-boring beetles, stem- and leaf-mining flies, foliage-feeding caterpillars, and plant-sucking aphids. Increased knowledge of these wasps helps determine their impact as beneficial insects and potential use for biocontrol. This research provided information on the diversity, distribution, and/or identification of 74 wasp species in the Western Hemisphere. One new species was described; one species was redescribed to report new morphological data. New distribution records were reported for 15 species. This research is useful to scientists conducting research on these wasps, as well as personnel responsible for controlling and limiting the spread of pest insects.


Review Publications
Boughton, A.J., Kula, R.R., Gates, M.W., Zhang, Y., Nunez, M., O'Connor, J., Whitfield, J.B., Center, T.D. 2012. Parasitoids attacking larvae of a recently introduced weed biological control agent, Neomusotima conspurcatalis Warren (Lepidoptera: Crambidae): key to species, natural history, and integrative taxonomy. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 105:753-767.

Heraty, J.M., Burks, R.A., Cruaud, A., Gibson, G.P., Liljeblad, J., Munro, J., Rasplus, J.Y., Delvare, G., Jansta, P., Gumovsky, A., Huber, J., Woolley, J.B., Krogmann, L., Heydon, S.L., Polaszek, A.P., Schmidt, S., Darling, C., Gates, M.W., Mottern, J., Dalmolin, A., Murray, E., Triapitsyn, S., Baur, H., Pinto, J., Van Noort, S., George, J., Yoder, M.J. 2012. A phylogenetic analysis of the megadiverse Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera). Cladistics. 1-77.

Kula, R.R. 2013. A new species and new distribution records for Braconidae from Mountain Lake Biological Station in southwestern Virginia and a redescription of Pentapleura foveolata Viereck. Zootaxa. 3641(5):501-523.

Kula, R.R., Dix-Luna, O., Shaw, S.R. 2012. Review of Ilatha Fischer (Hymenoptera: Braconidae: Alysiinae), including descriptions of six new species and a key to species. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 114(3):293-328.

Paretas-Martinez, Forshage, M., Buffington, M.L., Fisher, N., La Salle, J., Pujade-Villar, J. 2012. Catalogue of Australian Cynipoidea (Hymenoptera). Australian Journal of Entomology. 52:73-86.

Perez-Lachaud, G., Gates, M.W., Lachaud, J. 2013. New host record for Camponotophilus delvarei (Hymenoptera: Eurytomidae), a parasitoid of Microdon sp. larvae associated with the ant Camponotus sp. aff. textor. Psyche. 2013:1-6.

Simon Van Noort, Buffington, M.L. 2013. Revision of the Afrotropical Mayrellinae (Cynipoidea, Liopteridae), with the first record of Paramblynotus from Madagascar. Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 64:1-64.

Last Modified: 10/19/2014
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