Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

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

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

2011 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. Our Project Plan has five objectives that relate directly to this agreement: (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. Manage and provide access to parasitic and herbivorous wasps in the National Insect Collection at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (NMNH); (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; visit natural history collections and develop collaborations with other researchers to acquire wasp specimens; sample in the field to obtain wasp specimens and discover host plant-host-parasitoid relationships; acquire and analyze morphological data from specimens through light and electron microscopy; acquire and analyze genomic data from specimens through DNA extraction, amplification, and sequencing; compile and analyze matrices of morphological and molecular data to generate descriptions for wasp groups and species, hypotheses of evolutionary relationships, and identification tools (e.g., interactive keys); examine type specimens to correctly assign names to wasp groups and species; illustrate diagnostic characters through light and electron microscopy; compile biosystematic information (e.g., diagnostic data, images, host use) and deliver it 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
Scientists described one new subfamily, three new genera, and nine new parasitoid wasp species and also reported two new plant-feeding hosts under this project in FY2011. Identification keys were disseminated for differentiating 12 subfamilies, five genera, and five parasitoid wasp species, and diagnoses were provided for differentiating three subfamilies, four genera and 12 parasitoid wasp species. Evolutionary relationships among five subfamilies, 10 genera, and 22 parasitoid wasp species were discerned through analysis of morphological features. Species treated included parasitoid wasps that attack phytophagous gall-inducing wasps on eucalypts and bean trees, plant groups that contain both invasive species and beneficial species important to agriculture and the timber industry. They also consisted of parasitoids that attack phytophagous gall-inducing wasps on beech trees, a plant group important to forestry and the timber industry. Research was published on parasitoid wasps belonging to groups known to attack wood-boring beetles and filth flies. Notably, a range extension was reported for a parasitoid wasp species known to attack synanthropic flies. The new record is from Canyonlands National Park in Utah, and this information increases knowledge of arthropod diversity and ecology in the western U.S. Further, the new record is available for land managers to consider when making decisions on land use. Progress was made toward revising the Neotropical genera of Eurytomidae and monographing the world species of Symphya and Diglyphosematini, three groups containing parasitoid and plant-feeding wasps. Specimens of all three groups were acquired, morphospecies were delimited, and morphological characters were evaluated and scored. Specimen exchanges were established 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 1,000 wasp specimens were acquired from collaborators in Montana and North Dakota. The specimens were reared primarily from wheat stem sawfly and Hessian fly. They have been prepared to acquire morphological and molecular data, and a subset was identified and imaged through light and scanning electron microscopy. A subset of the specimens was also sent to a collaborator for DNA sequencing, and protocols were tested, in conjunction with the collaborator, for non-destructive extraction of genomic DNA. Scientists completed 590 identification requests from personnel with USDA-ARS, USDA-APHIS, other state and federal agencies, and public and private institutions. This resulted in identification of 3,273 specimens. Approximately 30 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 parasitoid and plant-feeding wasps.


4. Accomplishments


Review Publications
Buffington, M.L., Nieves-Aldrey, J.L. 2011. Revision of Plectocynipinae (Hymenoptera: Figitidae) with descriptions of three new species. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 113(2):91-108.

Kula, R.R. 2011. Two new brachypterous species of Heterospilus Haliday (Braconidae: Doryctinae) from the Nearctic Region. Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 21:53-64.

Pech, L.L., Gates, M.W., Graham, T.B. 2011. The first state record for Dirhinus Texanus Ashmead (Hymenoptera; Chalcididae) from Utah, USA. Southwestern Naturalist. 56(2):275-276.

Paretas-Martinez, J., Restrepo-Ortiz, C., Buffington, M.L., Pujade-Villar, J. 2011. Systematics of Australian Thrasorinae (Hymenoptera: Cynipoidea: Figitidae) with a description of Mikeiinae, new subfamily, and two new genera and three new species. Invertebrate Systematics. 108:21-48.

Last Modified: 10/16/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page