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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Research Project #429951

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

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-22000-289-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 1, 2015
End Date: Sep 30, 2020

The long-term goal of this project is to study the systematics and natural history of parasitoid and phytophagous wasps to facilitate their identification, understand and predict their impact on agricultural commodities and products, and disseminate biosystematic information on them to an international clientele. Most species of Hymenoptera are beneficial natural enemies or pollinators, but some are plant pests or bio-control antagonists. This project will focus on chalcidoid, ichneumonoid, cynipoid, and platygastroid wasps, which are taxa of high priority to agriculture and for which the project investigators have expertise. Those groups are important to agriculture because they are useful for bio-control of pest insects and plants and also include species that cause damage to agricultural commodities and products or disrupt bio-control. In addition to conducting research on those groups, the investigators will develop expert systems to provide a broad community of customers increased access to information pertinent to beneficial natural enemies and pests. This project also includes an identification service function for regulatory and research organizations, as well as a curatorial service function for building and maintaining portions of the National Insect Collection (NIC) for use in specimen diagnostics and research. We will focus on the following objectives over the next five years: Objective 1: Generate revised classifications, phylogenies, species concepts, natural history data and identification tools for wasps in the Cynipoidea, Chalcidoidea, Ichneumonoidea, and Platygastroidea lineages (the latter including Trissolcus wasps, which are important natural enemies of invasive stink bugs). Objective 2: Compile, organize, and post on the web, searchable electronic databases of hymenopteran families in the U.S. National Insect and Mite Collection, tools, and images of parasitic and plant-feeding Hymenoptera. (non-hypothesis driven) Objective 3: Provide accurate and efficient identifications of Hymenoptera for APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine and other federal and state regulatory agencies, ARS researchers, and stakeholders across the United States. (non-hypothesis driven)

Morphological and molecular characters (DNA sequences) will be generated to test species concepts and hypotheses of relationship among agriculturally important flies and parasitoid wasps that attack them. These data will be used to develop new diagnostic tools (descriptions, illustrations, keys). Databases containing scientific names, distributions, taxonomic literature, and host plant and specimen data pertaining to fruit flies will be expanded and disseminated to the user community. These and other taxonomic tools will be made accessible to the public via publications, the internet, and other electronic media. Timely and accurate identifications of flies will be provided, including those intercepted at ports-of-entry by APHIS-PPQ or submitted by a wide range of scientists and regulatory agencies, and portions of the National Collection in the National Museum of Natural History, a vital tool for research and identification, will be maintained and expanded.