November 26, 2012

Why Microgastrinae and why they may interest you

When rearing caterpillars, it is common to find some small parasitoid wasps (1.5-8 mm long), often black or yellow and with rather short "abdomen". They belong to the subfamily Microgastrinae (Order Hymenoptera, Family Braconidae), and are one of the most important groups parasitizing butterflies and moths (Order Lepidoptera). These wasps are key components in the biological control of agriculture and forestry pests; and have also been extensively used in biodiversity, ecological, behavioral and molecular studies. However, its narrow host specificity and extraordinary diversity (more than 2,200 described species, with an estimate of 20-40,000 worldwide) presents an immense challenge. 
Addressing the need of more information about those fascinating insects is the main reason of this website. Tips to recognize different genera, species profiles, new biological data, distribution records, and other comments will be provided in following posts. Also, the readers are encouraged to send any question and/or contribution they may have about microgastrines (or any braconid wasp) parasitizing caterpillars. 

Detailed distribution of species and their host records will be compiled from different sources (mostly mined from the large and rich collection available in the Canadian National Collection of Insects, as well as other collections I have visited and/or borrowed material from). Contents intend to be useful to anyone already working or just interested in rearing caterpillars and their parasitoids. It will hopefully interest workers on biological control, bioinformatics, biodiversity researchers, wasp taxonomists, conservation authorities and entomological societies looking for information of species in particular areas. 

There is a great potential for collaboration between citizen scientists and researchers as well. For example, there is a well-established network of butterflies and moths enthusiasts, which carry out amazing inventories of species, rearing of caterpillars, and coordinate efforts through many excellent websites (more about that in future posts). It only seems logic to expand those activities further, to include the parasitoids of those butterflies and moths.

Recent rearing efforts (of caterpillars and its parasitoids) in tropical areas have been extraordinary -they will be showcased here in future posts as well. Similar efforts are comparatively less in temperate areas -especially in Canada, in spite of a great tradition of citizen scientists widely contributing with researchers. Hopefully we could explore and encourage future participation and contributions in those directions!

This blog is linked to my homepage at  the Canadian National Collections of Insects, Arachnids and Nematods (CNC, Ottawa) website. There I will soon be uploading photos and detailed information on species and specimens of Braconidae housed in the CNC -mainly including, but not limited to Microgastrinae. The blog will be just the way to interact and exchange information with the community that may be interested in the topics outlined above. Please come back to visit and help improving this modest effort. Thank you very much!

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