Overview

Brief Summary

Unlike true wasps, ichneumon wasps do not sting people. The larvae of this wasp live off of or even in other insects or spiders. Caterpillars in particular are a favorite prey. The adult animal looks for a suitable prey, paralyzes it with its stinger, drags it to a hole where one egg is laid on top. The host is still alive while the larva eats it up, but eventually die. Some species of ichneumon wasps inject the egg directly into the prey. There are many species of ichneumon wasps found in the dunes. They are also used in glasshouse farming to combat pests. Due to their manner of arching their body, this species is also referred to as a scorpion wasp.
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Comprehensive Description

Remarks

Members of the family Ichneumonidae are occasionally reared from infested fruits, but most of those that emerge directly from the fruit are parasitoids of lepidopteran and (to a lesser extent) coleopteran larvae. The ichneumonids attacking fruit-infesting Tephritidae are nearly always pupal parasitoids, often attacking the host after it leaves the fruit. Thus, they are rarely sampled during most rearing programs. Ichneumonids have generally been reared only from those species that have been extensively studied, and for which adequate samples of puparia have been collected from the soil (e. g. Palaearctic Rhagoletis, see Hoffmeister 1990, 1992). Genera reared from tephritids include Gelis (Figs. 4, 5), Phygadeuon (Figs. 1-3), and Cremnodes, all members of the subfamily Cryptinae.
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Ecology

Associations

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
larva of Perilampus tristis is endoparasitoid of cocoon of Ichneumonidae

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Known predators

Ichneumonidae (ichneumonids (unspecified)) is prey of:
Linyphia triangularis
Agelena labyrinthica

Based on studies in:
England, Oxshott Heath (Heath, Plant substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • O. W. Richards, 1926. Studies on the ecology of English heaths III. Animal communities of the felling and burn successions at Oxshott Heath, Surrey. J. Ecol. 14:244-281, from pp. 263-64.
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Known prey organisms

Ichneumonidae (ichneumonids (unspecified)) preys on:
Retinia buoliana
Panolis griseovariegata
Oenerostoma piniariella
Gelechia dodecella

Based on studies in:
England, Oxshott Heath (Heath, Plant substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • O. W. Richards, 1926. Studies on the ecology of English heaths III. Animal communities of the felling and burn successions at Oxshott Heath, Surrey. J. Ecol. 14:244-281, from pp. 263-64.
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Ovipositor drills through wood: parasitic wasps
 

The 10 cm long ovipositor of the parasitic wasp, Megarhyssa ichneumon, drills several centimeters through solid wood using reciprocating rather than rotatory motion.

     
  "In some wasps, the egg-laying organ, or ovipositor, has been adapted to bore through wood. I have watched Megarhyssa ichneumon wasps drill through several centimetres of solid elm in order to parasitize the woodboring larvae of horntail wasps that feed deep inside dead trees. The parasite appears to detect the presence of horntails by smelling with its antennae and perhaps by feeling the larvae's vibrations in the wood. The ovipositor of Megarhyssa is longer than the wasp itself--it measures almost 10 centimetres--and is highly flexible. The wasp not only is able to insert the ovipositor through several centimetres of wood but also uses it to inject eggs into its horntail host." (Forsyth 1992:27)

  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Forsyth, A. 1992. Exploring the World of Insects: The Equinox Guide to Insect Behaviour. Camden House.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:55,092Public Records:16,253
Specimens with Sequences:47,025Public Species:1,570
Specimens with Barcodes:41,388Public BINs:2,803
Species:5,304         
Species With Barcodes:3,440         
          
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ichneumonidae sp. MASBIN85

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ichneumonidae sp. MASBIN294

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ichneumonidae sp. MASBIN17

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Ichneumonidae

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Wikipedia

Ichneumonidae

The Ichneumonidae are a family within the order Hymenoptera. Insects in this family are commonly called ichneumon wasps. Less exact terms are ichneumon flies (they are not closely related to true flies), or scorpion wasps due to the extreme lengthening and curving of the abdomen (scorpions are arachnids). Simply but ambiguously, these insects are commonly called "ichneumons", which is also a term for the Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon); ichneumonids is often encountered as a less ambiguous alternative. Ichneumon wasps are important parasitoids of other insects. Common hosts are larvae and pupae of Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, and Lepidoptera.

Over 60,000 species occur worldwide, with about 3,000 in North America - more than any other Hymenoptera family. The distribution of Ichneumonidae is one of the most notable exceptions to the common latitudinal gradient in species diversity because it shows greater speciation at high latitudes than at low latitudes.[1]

Charles Darwin discussed the Ichneumonidae with regard to his views on religion; see Darwin and the Ichneumonidae, below.

Description[edit]

Ichneumon wasps differ from typical, aculeate wasps, which sting in defense and do not pass their eggs along the stinger (Aculeata: Vespoidea and Apoidea), in that the antennae have more segments; typically 16 or more, whereas the others have 13 or fewer. Female ichneumon wasps sometimes have an ovipositor longer than their body. Ovipositors and stingers are homologous structures; Ichneumons generally inject venom along with the egg, but only larger species, with relatively shorter ovipositors, use the ovipositor as a stinger in defense. Stingers in aculeate Hymenoptera - which like Ichneumonidae belong to the Apocrita - are used exclusively for defense; they cannot be used as egg-laying equipment. Males do not possess stingers or ovipositors in either lineage.

Ichneumonidae wing morphology
Braconidae wing morphology

Distinction from Braconidae[edit]

Ichneumonidae are distinguished from their sister group Braconidae by these character combinations. Vein 2m-cu of the forewing is present in 95% of Ichneumonidae - it is absent in Braconidae; vein 1/Rs+M is absent in all Ichneumonidae- it is present in 85% of Braconidae. Vein 1R-M of the hind wing is opposite or apical to the separation of R1 and Rs in Ichneumonidae- it is basal in Braconidae. About 90% of Ichneumonidae have a flexible suture between metasomal terga 2 and 3 -these tergites are fused in Braconidae (though the suture is secondarily flexible in Aphidiinae).[2]

Reproduction and oviposition[edit]

Males search for females for mating

Some species of ichneumon wasps lay their eggs in the ground, but most inject them directly into a host's body, typically into a larva or pupa. Host information has been notably summed up by J.F. Aubert, et al.[3]

In some of the largest species, namely from the genera Megarhyssa and Rhyssa, both sexes will wander over the surfaces of logs and tree trunks, tapping with their antennae. Each sex does so for a different reason; females are searching for the scent of wood-boring larvae of the horntail wasps (hymenopteran family Siricidae) upon which to lay eggs; males are searching for emerging females with which to mate.

Upon sensing the vibrations emitted by a wood-boring host, the female wasp will drill her ovipositor into the substrate until it reaches the cavity wherein lies the host. She then injects an egg through the hollow tube into the body cavity. There, the egg will hatch and the resulting larva will devour its host before emergence. How a female is able to drill with her ovipositor into solid wood is still somewhat of a mystery, though metal (ionized manganese or zinc) is found in the extreme tip of some species' ovipositors. The adult insect, following pupation, is faced with the problem of extricating itself from tunnels of its host. Fortunately, the high metal concentrations are not limited to the female's ovipositor, as the mandibles of the adult are also hardened with metals and it uses these to chew itself out of the wood.[4]

The process of oviposition in Dolichomitus imperator[edit]

Dolichomitus imperator Oviposition R Bartz.jpg

  1. Tapping with her antennae, the wasp detects and localizes scent and vibrations that indicate a host is present.
  2. With the longer ovipositor, the wasp drills a hole through the bark.
  3. The wasp inserts the ovipositor into the cavity which contains the host larva.
  4. Making corrections.
  5. Depositing her eggs.
  6. Depositing her eggs.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

The Ichneumonidae are the subject of ongoing taxonomical difficulty. About as diverse as the true weevils (Curculionidae), there are numerous small, inconspicuous and hard-to-identify ichneumon wasps. The sheer diversity means DNA sequence data are only available for a tiny fraction of the species, and detailed cladistic studies require major-scale computing capacity.

Consequently, the phylogeny and systematics of the ichneumon wasps are not definitely resolved. Several prominent authors - such as H. T. Townes and J. Oehlke - have gone as far as to publish major reviews that defy the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.[5]

Regardless, a number of seminal works exist, including the extensive study and the synonymic catalogue by Townes, but also treatments by other entomologists, namely J. F. Aubert, whose notable collection of ichneumon wasps is in Lausanne.[6]

Subfamilies[edit]

The list presented here follows the suggestion of David Wahl of the American Entomological Institute.[7] It will be updated as necessary, as new research refines the interrelationships of the ichneumon wasps.

The subfamilies are not listed in a taxonomic or phylogenetic sequence, as the relationships between the groups are not yet resolved to a degree to render any such arrangement reliable:[7]

Morphology[edit]

Famous ichneumonologists[edit]

Famous ichneumonologists include:

Darwin and the Ichneumonidae[edit]

The grisliness and apparent cruelty (at least, from a human perspective) of Ichneumonidae larval cannibalism troubled philosophers, naturalists, and theologians in the 19th century, who found the practice inconsistent with the notion of a world created by a loving and benevolent God.[9] Charles Darwin found the example of the Ichneumonidae so troubling, it contributed to his increasing doubts about the nature and existence of a Creator. In an 1860 letter to the American naturalist Asa Gray, Darwin wrote:

I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.[10]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Sime & Brower (1998)
  2. ^ Sharkey, M.J. (1993), Family Braconidae, pp. 362-394. In: Goulet, H. and J. Huber (eds.). Hymenoptera of the world, an identification guide to families, Agriculture Canada Research Branch Monograph No. 1894E.
  3. ^ Aubert (1969, 1978, 2000), Perkins (1959, 1960), Townes et al. (1965)
  4. ^ Ross Piper (2007), Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals, Greenwood Press
  5. ^ Oehlke (1966, 1967), Townes (1969abc, 1971)
  6. ^ Aubert (1969, 1978, 2000), Gauld (1976), Perkins (1959, 1960), Townes (1969abc, 1971), Townes et al. (1965)
  7. ^ a b Wahl (1999)
  8. ^ a b c d Tereshkin (2009)
  9. ^ "Nonmoral Nature". Retrieved 2011-04-05. 
  10. ^ "Letter 2814 — Darwin, C. R. to Gray, Asa, 22 May [1860]". Retrieved 2011-04-05. 

References[edit]

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