Featured Chalcidoids
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Family- Eupelmidae

Introduction

Eupelmidae is a diverse family containing more than 900 species that can be found around the world, with 119 of those species occurring in Canada and the United States. Members of this group have diverse life histories and currently are divided into 3 subfamilies: Calostinae, Eupelminae, and Neanastatinae. While most Eupelmidae are tiny, the largest members of the genus Metapelma can be up to 6 mm in body length (figure F below). Species vary in color from dull brown to brightly colored and even metallic.

Biology

Most are internal or external parasites of the immature stages of moths, butterflies, true bugs, beetles, lacewings, grasshoppers, cockroaches, gall midges, and other wasps. Some are egg parasites on eggs of spiders with the egg case; as they attack multiple eggs, they can be thought of as predators rather than parasites (figure E below). Other species are hyperparasites, parasites that attack a host that is also a parasite.

(A)	_Anastatus_, (B) _Eupelmus_   _vesicularis_ female, (C) _Eupelmus_  _vesicularis_ male, (D) _Brasema_, (E) _Arachnophaga_, (F) _Metapelma_ _spectabile_

(A) Anastatus, (B) Eupelmus vesicularis female, (C) Eupelmus vesicularis male, (D) Brasema, (E) Arachnophaga, (F) Metapelma spectabile

Morphology

Members of the subfamily Eupelminae have a unique jumping mechanism which is powered by the contraction of the large acropleural muscles. These muscles stretch energy storing blocks made of resilin. When triggered, the energy is released distorting the thorax, forcing the head and abdomen to bend over it causing the midlegs to snap backward propelling it into the air. These modifications will often cause Eupelminae to die in a bent shape with the head and abdomen held upwards (figure A and E above).

jumping mechanism

Jumping mechanism

Economic Importance

Species of Eupelmidae have been used as biological control agents of agricultural and forest pests. For example, Anastatus disparis is an egg parasitoid used to control the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), one of the most destructive insects in the eastern United States. It can defoliate over one million acres of forest a year causing millions in damage.

_Lymantria_ _dispar_: (G) female (top) and male (bottom), (H) caterpillars feeding on leaves, (I) defoliated forest

Lymantria dispar: (G) female (top) and male (bottom), (H) Larvae eating all the leaves off trees, (I) Defoliated forest

Photo Credit

  • (A) CBG Photography Group
  • (B) Natural History Museum: Hymenoptera Section
  • (C) Natural History Museum: Hymenoptera Section
  • (D) WSDA Ent Lab
  • (E) CNC/BIO Photography Group
  • (F) Spencer Walker
  • (G) USDA, APHIS, Plant Protection and Quarantine Archives
  • (H) Haruta Ovidiu, University of Oradea, Bugwood.org
  • (I) Jeffrey A. Mai, U.S. Forest Service