Chalcid wasps (superfamily Chalcidoidea) belong to the insect order Hymenoptera, and are one of the largest groups within the order, with some 22,000 known species, and an estimated total diversity of anywhere from 60,000 to more than 500,000 species, meaning the vast majority have yet to be discovered and described.
Most of the species are parasitoids of other insects, attacking the egg or larval stage of their host, though many other life cycles are known. These hosts are to be found in at least 12 different insect orders including Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Diptera (true flies), Coleoptera (beetles), Hemiptera (true bugs), and other Hymenoptera, as well as two orders of Arachnida, and even one family of nematodes.
A few species are phytophagous and the larvae feed inside seeds, stems, and galls. Generally beneficial to humans as a group, chalcids keep various crop pests under control, and many species have been imported to control insect pests.
They can be found almost everywhere, particularly on flowers, foliage, and in leaf litter, but are often overlooked due to their very small size, which includes the smallest of all known insects (Dicopomorpha echmepterygis).
Chalcids are tiny, dark-colored wasps, often metallic blue or green with complex sculpturing on the body. They are also recognized by the characteristic reduced wing venation, similar to that seen in other superfamilies of parasitic wasps. They have a significant part to play in ecosystems and their true importance must not be underestimated.
Chalcidoidea is a superfamily of Hymenoptera, whose family constituency is in constant flux, as new hypotheses of relationships are constantly being proposed and rejected; with the advent of molecular systematics, it seems that the future will see further revisions of the classification in use today.
There are nineteen extant famili es recognized at present:
- Agaonidae Walker, 1846
- Aphelinidae Thomson, 1876
- Chalcididae Latreille, 1817
- Encyrtidae Walker, 1837
- Eucharitidae Latreille, 1809
- Eulophidae Westwood, 1829 (including Elasmidae)
- Eupelmidae Walker, 1833
- Eurytomidae Walker, 1832
- Leucospidae Fabricius, 1775
- Mymaridae Haliday, 1833
- Ormyridae F?rster, 1856
- Perilampidae Latreille, 1809
- Pteromalidae Dalman, 1820
- Rotoitidae Boucek & Noyes, 1987
- Signiphoridae Ashmead, 1880
- Tanaostigmatidae Howard, 1890
- Tetracampidae F?rster, 1856
- Torymidae Walker, 1833
- Trichogrammatidae Haliday, 1851
There is also one extinct family, Khutelchalcididae Rasnitsyn, Basibuyuk & Quicke, 2004.
Of these families, at least five are known to be artificial groups (paraphyletic), and are being - or will be - divided into several families, or perhaps fused with existing families. The most problematic, the Pteromalidae, is, in some classifications, supposed to contain as many as 8 independent lineages, grouped together because of superficial similarities.
- Key to families Grissell, E. E., and M. E. Schauff. 1990. A handbook of the families of Nearctic Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera).Entomological Society of Washington (Washington, D.C.) Handbook 1:1-85.Online at 
- Gibson, G. A. P., Huber, J. T., and J. B. Woolley. 1997. Annotated keys to the genera of Nearcti c Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera). NRC Research Press.
- Universal Chalcidoid Database
- Images of chacid wasps on MorphBank, a biological image database
- Pbase Wrongly titled (as Chalcididae) gallery of images..
- Ponent Pictorial overview.
The Superfamily Chalcidoidea is a member of the Series Parasitica. Here is the complete "parentage" of Chalcidoidea:
- Domain: Eukaryota
Whittaker & Margulis,1978 - eukaryotes
- Kingdom: Animalia
C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
- Subkingdom: Bilateria
(Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983 - bilaterians
- Branch: Protostomia
Grobben, 1908 - protostomes
- Infrakingdom: Ecdysozoa
A.M.A. Aguinaldo et al., 1997 ex T. Cavalier-Smith, 1998 - ecdysozoans
- Superphylum: Panarthropoda
- Phylum: Arthropoda
Latreille, 1829 - Arthropods
- Subphylum: Mandibulata
- Infraphylum: Atelocerata
- Superclass: Panhexapoda
- Infraphylum: Atelocerata Heymons, 1901
- Subphylum: Mandibulata Snodgrass, 1938
- Phylum: Arthropoda Latreille, 1829 - Arthropods
- Superphylum: Panarthropoda Cuvier
- Infrakingdom: Ecdysozoa A.M.A. Aguinaldo et al., 1997 ex T. Cavalier-Smith, 1998 - ecdysozoans
- Branch: Protostomia Grobben, 1908 - protostomes
- Subkingdom: Bilateria (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983 - bilaterians
- Kingdom: Animalia C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
The Superfamily Chalcidoidea is further organized into finer groupings including:
- Family (22): Agaonidae · Aphelinidae · Chalcididae · Elasmidae · Encyrtidae · Entedoninae · Eucharitidae · Eulophidae · Eupelmidae · Eurytomidae · Leucospidae · Mymaridae · Ormyridae · Perilampidae · Pteromalidae · Rotoitidae · Signiphoridae · Tanaostigmatidae · Tetracampidae · Tetracneminae · Torymidae & middot; Trichogrammatidae
Fig wasps are wasps of the family Agaonidae which pollinate figs or are otherwise associated with figs, a coevolutional relationship that has been developing for at least 80 million years. They have been seen to fly farther than any known pollen-bearing insect, and in some regions of the world where wind can gust at up to 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph), they can travel downwind approximately 100 miles in their 48-hour lifespan. [more]
Aphelinidae is a moderate-sized family of tiny parasitic wasps, with some 1160 described species in some 35 genera. These minute insects are challenging to study as they deteriorate rapidly after death unless extreme care is taken (e.g., preservation in ethanol), making identification of most museum specimens difficult. The larvae of the majority are primary parasitoids on Hemiptera, though other hosts are attacked, and details of the life history can be variable (e.g., some attack eggs, some attack pupae, and others are hyperparasites). They are found throughout the world in virtually all habitats, and are extremely important as biological control agents. [more]
The Chalcididae are a moderate-sized family within the Chalcidoidea, composed mostly of parasitoids and a few hyperparasitoids. The family is apparently polyphyletic, though the different subfamilies may each be monophyletic, and some may be elevated to family status in the near future. As presently defined, there are over 85 genera and over 1455 species worldwide. They are often black with yellow, red, or white markings, rarely brilliantly metallic, with a robust mesosoma and very strong sculpturing. The hind femora are often greatly enlarged, with a row of teeth or serrations along the lower margin. [more]
The genus Elasmus is the only member of the subfamily Elasminae (formerly classified as a separate family, Elasmidae), and contains over 200 species worldwide. They are mostly parasitoids or hyperparasitoids of lepidopteran larvae, though several species are parasitoids of Polistes paper wasp larvae. [more]
Encyrtidae is a large family of parasitic wasps, with some 3710 described species in some 455 genera (see List of encyrtid genera). The larvae of the majority are primary parasitoids on Hemiptera, though other hosts are attacked, and details of the life history can be variable (e.g., some attack eggs, some attack larvae, others are hyperparasites and there are even Encyrtidae that develops as parasitoids of ticks). They are found throughout the world in virtually all habitats, and are extremely important as biological control agents. [more]
Eulophidae is a large family of hymenopteran insects, with over 4,300 described species in some 300 genera (see list of eulophid genera). The family as presently defined also includes the genus Elasmus, which was previously treated as a separate family, "Elasmidae", and is now treated as a subfamily of Eulophidae. These minute insects are challenging to study as they deteriorate rapidly after death unless extreme care is taken (e.g., preservation in ethanol), making identification of most museum specimens difficult. The larvae of a very few species feed on plants but the majority are primary parasitoids on a huge range of arthropods at all stages of development. They are exceptional in that they are one of two hymenopteran families with some species that are known to parasitize Thysanoptera. Eulophids are found throughout the world in virtually all habitats (one is even aquatic, parasitising psephenid beetles). [more]
Eupelmidae is a family of parasitic wasps in the superfamily Chalcidoidea. The group is apparently polyphyletic, though the different subfamilies may each be monophyletic, and may be elevated to family status in the near future. As presently defined, there are over 905 described species in 45 genera. The larvae of the majority are primary parasitoids, commonly on beetle larvae, though many other hosts are attacked, including spiders, and details of the life history can be variable (e.g., some attack eggs and others are hyperparasites). They are found throughout the world in virtually all habitats. [more]
Eurytomidae is a family within the superfamily Chalcidoidea. The group is apparently polyphyletic, though the different subfamilies may each be monophyletic, and may be elevated to family status in the near future. As presently defined, there are some 1420 described species in 87 genera. [more]
Mymaridae, commonly known as fairyflies or fairy wasps, is a family of chalcid wasps found in temperate and tropical regions throughout the world. It contains around 100 genera and 1424 species. All of them are parasitoids of the eggs of other insects. Several species have been successfully used as biological pest control agents. [more]
The Perilampidae are a small family within the Chalcidoidea, composed mostly of hyperparasitoids. The family is closely related to the Eucharitidae, and the eucharitids appear to have evolved from within the Perilampidae, thus rendering the family paraphyletic (if the two families are joined in the future, the name that has precedence is Eucharitidae). As presently defined, there are 15 genera and >270 species worldwide. They are often brilliantly metallic (especially blue or green), with a robust mesosoma and a small, triangular metasoma (swollen and bulbous in ). They are generally very strongly sculptured. The prothorax is typically very broad and disclike, and the labrum is multidigitate, a feature shared with the Eucharitidae. [more]
Pteromalidae is a very large family of parasitic wasps, with some 3,450 described species in some 640 genera (the number used to be 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 there is no question that the family is completely artificial, composed of numerous distantly-related groups (polyphyletic). Accordingly, details of the life history 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. [more]
Signiphoridae (historically also known as Thysanidae) is a small family of parasitic wasps in the superfamily Chalcidoidea. There are approximately 80 species in 4 genera. [more]
Torymidae is a family of wasps that consists of attractive metallic species with enlarged hind legs, and generally with a long ovipositor. Many are parasitoids on gall-forming insects, and some are phytophagous (plant-eating) species, sometimes usurping the galls formed by other insects. There are over 960 species in ca. 70 genera worldwide. They are best recognized in that they are one of the few groups of Chalcidoidea in which the cerci are visible. [more]
The family Trichogrammatidae are tiny wasps in the Chalcidoidea that include some of the smallest of all insects, with most species having adults less than 1 mm in length. There are over 840 species in ca. 80 genera worldwide. Trichogrammatids parasitize the eggs of many different orders of insects. As such, they are among the more important biological control agents known, attacking many pest insects (esp. Lepidopterans). [more]
At least 846 species and subspecies belong to the Family Trichogrammatidae.
More info about the Family Trichogrammatidae may be found here.
- The text on this page is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It includes material from Wikipedia retrieved Wednesday, April 25, 2012.
- Photographs on this page are copyrighted by individual photographers, and individual copyrights apply.
- The technology underlying this page, including the controls behind Keep Exploring, is owned by the BayScience Foundation. All rights are reserved.