July 3, 2013

Internet resources about Microgastrinae. Part VI

This is the sixth part of a series of posts discussing available, free, Internet resources on microgastrine wasps (Braconidae). The interested reader can retrieve the complete series by searching for the Tag "Internet Resources" within this blog.

The site featured today, with the logo of the Hymenoptera Institute, is maintained by Dr. Michael Sharkey, University of Kentucky. It contains lots of information, mainly on Braconidae, although there are also many things beyond that family (and even beyond Hymenoptera) that will be of interest to the reader. 

Of particular interest to this blog are the pages devoted to "Research Projects". The different projects showcased there illustrate the breadth of the work being done by Mike and his students/colleagues. 

One can find, for example, information about inventories being done in mega-diverse countries such as Colombia and Thailand (for Thailand, it is possible to read the whole series of TIGER newsletters, a publication that covered a project sampling and studying the diversity of Hymenoptera in a series of Thai National Parks. Those newsletter make for a very interesting and instructive reading!). 

There are details about the Hymenoptera Tree of Life, a project that has been going on for many years. And one can also find brief presentations of present and former students/collaborators of Mike. I always find interesting this kind of information, because allows anyone to know more about people and their research interests.

For those interested in Braconidae in general, there are Delta keys (and data matrices) for the whole family, as well as for some of the "pet groups" of Mike -namely Agathidinae. Although the major emphasis is on agathidines, there is much more than that. Most of the information is free to access and download, which is one of the reasons why the website is featured and recommended here.

Especially significant to anyone studying Microgatrinae is one project devoted to Cotesia of importance in Agriculture and Forestry. There the reader can find lots of pictures, some biological information, and a Delta-generated key to some of the most important species of the genus worldwide. It is certainly a good starting point for anyone rearing Cotesia or studying the genus from an economical perspective (i.e., for Biological Control purposes).

Of course, the reader must be aware that the actual number of Cotesia species is MUCH HIGHER than those featured in the website. At present there are more than 260 described Cotesia worldwide, and the number of undescribed species probably represents hundreds of additional species. Thus, chances are that any person collecting the genus would find MANY species not represented in that key.

Still, Mike's page is valuable because of is the only available which provides extensive illustrations (especially color photographs). Most of the other available keys on Cotesia are either outdated, or barely illustrated, or not easy to work with. And there is no key that allows anyone to sort world species of Cotesia with confidence. This is certainly a good first step -even though we need much more steps in that direction
In the meantime, Mike's site provides a great help for anyone dealing with Cotesia in an agricultural or forestry context. Let's hope that more can be added in the future!

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