Thursday, 29 December 2016

Promecidia abnormis & Promecidia chui: Two new species of Velvet Ants from south China.

Velver Ants, Mutillidae, are a group of Wasps in which the females are flightless and lack wings, causing them to resemble large, fur covered Ants. The males are winged and capable of flying, seeking out females with which to mate. These Wasps are parasitoids (i.e. their larvae live within the bodies of other Insects, slowly consuming their hosts as they grow) targeting other species of ground-dwelling Wasps and Bees, which the females enter, laying individual eggs close to the larvae or pupas of the host. Targeting other Hymenopterans is a high-risk strategy, and female Velvet Ants are noted for their particularly tough exoskeletons and extremely potent stings.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 16 December 2016, Arkady Lelej of the Institute of Biology and Soil Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Hu-ting Zhou of the Department of Entomology at South China Agricultural University, Valery Loktionov, also of the Institute of Biology and Soil Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Zai-fu Xu, also of the Department of Entomology at South China Agricultural University, describe two new species of Velvet Ants from south China, as part of a review of Velvet Ants of the genus Promecidia.

The first new species described is named Promecidia abnormis, in reference to the presence of a carina (ridge) on the second sternal segment of the male, which is a common feature in members of the genus Zeugomutilla, but which is highly unusual in a member of the genus Promecidia. The species is described from two male specimens, one collected from the Nankunshan Provincial Nature Reserve in Guangdong Province and the second from the Jianfengling National Nature Reserve on Hainan Island. These are 8.5 and 10.2 mm in length respectively, and black in colour with a distinctive reddish brown area on their backs.

Promecidia abnormis, male specimen from Guangdong Province. Scale bar is 1 mm in length. Lelej et al. (2016).

The second new species is named Promecidia chui, in honour of the Chinese entomologist Chu Joo-tsu, an expert on the Hymenoptera. This species is described from twelve male and one female specimens from several locations in Yunnan and Hainan Provinces. The males range from 6.8 to 11.9 mm in length and black with reddish brown markings, the female is 7.65 mm in length and reddish brown with black and yellow markings.

Promecidia chui, male specimen from the Nabanhe National Nature Reserve in Yunnan Province. Scale bar is 1 mm. Detail of mandible inset. Lelej et al. (2016).

 Promecidia chui, female specimen from the Diaoluoshan National Nature Reserve on Hainan Island. Inset bottom left: Metasoma, dorsal view. Inset bottom right: Metasomal terga 5 and 6, dorsal view. Scale bar 1 mm. Lelej et al. (2016).

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