The Pteromalidae are a very large family of mostly parasitoid wasps, with some 3,450 described species in about 640 genera (the number was greater, but many species and genera have been reduced to synonymy in recent years). The subfamily-level divisions of the family are highly contentious and unstable, and the family unquestionably is completely artificial, composed of numerous, distantly related groups (polyphyletic). Accordingly, details of their life histories range over nearly the entire range possible within the Chalcidoidea, though the majority are (as with most chalcidoids) parasitoids of other insects. They are found throughout the world in virtually all habitats, and many are important as biological control agents.
In essence, a "pteromalid" is any member of the Chalcidoidea that has five-segmented tarsi and does not have the defining features of any of the remaining families with five-segmented tarsi. Unquestionably, this family will be divided into several families in the near future.