On a mission to explore the diversity of tropical parasitoid wasps, scientists from the University of Turku in Finland have sampled the Afrotropical Rhyssinae variety – some of the largest of this insect group, growing to more than ten centimetres in length.
In their latest study, they describe two wasps previously unknown to science: Epirhyssa quagga and Epirhyssa johanna. The latter wasp, pictured here, had the honour of being named after researcher Tapani Hopkins’ wife, Johanna.
Although large-sized insect species tend to be better known than small species, tropical wasps are an exception.
“A good example of how poorly tropical Rhyssineas are known is the species Epirhyssa overlaeti, which is the largest African Rhyssinae,” says Hopkins.
“Only two females were known before, one collected in the 1930s in the Congo and the other one in Cameroon in the 1980s.
“Now at one single Ugandan site, we found large numbers of both females and males. This completely changed what is known about the distribution of the species.”
Previously, the team had studied the diversity of Rhyssinae wasps in the Amazonian lowland rainforest and described ten new large-sized South American species.
“Extending the research to the African continent is important,” says Hopkins, “because our goal is to understand the global diversity of the parasitoid insects which are extremely species rich.”
The findings were published in the journal ZooKeys.