Wednesday 18 April 2018

Chelonus spinigaster: A new species of Braconid Wasp from Uttar Pradesh.

Moths of the Family Gracillariidae are found throughout the world except on Antarctica and some remote islands. Their larvae are leaf-miners, worm-like caterpillars that live in tunnels inside leaves. This makes these Moths significant agricultural pests, and considerable amounts of research have been dedicated to finding ways to control them. One of the most successful methods of reducing Mining Moth populations is the deliberate introduction of parasitoid predators, Insects (usually Wasps) which lay their eggs on or in the leaf-mining caterpillar, which the parasitoid larvae then consume. Since most parasitoids target only a single prey species, which is an advantage when introducing a biological control, as it makes them highly unlikely to target unintended species. However, before this can be done, suitable parasitoids need to be identified, something which has not been done in every part of the world.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 12 February 2018, Zubair Ahmad of the Department of Biology at King Khalid University, and Hamed Ghramh, also of the Department of Biology, and of the Research Centre for Advance materials Science, at King Khalid University, describe a new species of Braconid Wasp targetting Acrocercops lysibathra, a Mining Moth which feeds on a number of fruiting trees in India, a country where parasitoid-prey relationships have been little studied.

Braconid Wasps are small parasitoid wasps (Wasps whose larvae grow inside the bodies of a living animal host) targeting a variety of Insect and Spider species. They are unusual in that they will lay multiple eggs within the same host (most parasitoid Wasps lay a single egg on each host), thereby allowing multiple larvae to mature within a large host, which is not necessarily killed in the process. Braconid Wasps are often fearsome in appearance, but are harmless, other than to targeted host species, as they lack stings.

The new species is placed in the genus Chelonus and given the specific name spinigaster, meaning 'spiney tail'. The species is described from eight female and fourteen females collected from Acrocercops lysibathra caterpillars living on Cordia latifolia (Sebesten Fruit) trees at Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. These are small Wasps, reaching about 2.4 mm, black in colour with yellow and brown markings, with a rugose (corrugated) epidermis.

Chelonus spinigaster, female specimen. Ahmed & Ghramh (2018).

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