Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Tiny Wasp (Ichneumonid or Braconid Wasp?)

As ever, whenever I step outside of my "comfort zone", I have found preparing this posting to be both hard work, and a good learning experience. And, it is always enlightening to discover that no matter which area of Natural History one delves into there are people out there who make a particular class of animals or plants, or fungi, the entire focus of their work - or so it seems, anyway.

Several days ago, I noticed a tiny insect (I thought perhaps a winged Ant) crawling along in the dust on the floor, after my brother had done some sanding of plaster. That dust has been since cleaned up.

Anyway, I grabbed the trusty "Micro" 105mm Lens, (everyone except Nikon call them Macro lenses), and came up with an interesting series of images.

This was a distant shot, just to get things in focus, and to test how "flighty" the insect might be. It didn't disappear, so I went in closer.
Click to read the "scale", so you can assess its size.
I have used the marks in the floor board as a scale, and measured them (afterwards). You can clearly see how small this wasp is (for it did turn out to be a wasp, not a winged stage of an Ant, as I had first thought).

I would say that its body and wings were just over 1 cm long, but the antennae and tail (ovipositor) were worth another 1 cm, together. Pretty small, compared to the normal Ichneumonid wasps which come to my front light on a regular basis. But clearly it is based upon the same basic "design", but considerably smaller than those other common wasps.
Note the yellow waist.
I have not seen that colour on other illustrated specimens.

Anyway, thanks to the Internet, I have tracked down a series of images of clearly similar wasps. The consensus (from other websites) seems to be that similar looking wasps are within the Superfamily Ichneumonoidea - Braconids and Ichneumons. The distinguishing feature between the two groups is, apparently, that "ichneumonids have two recurrent veins forming a cell in the lower part of the wing which is lacking in the braconids".

Unfortunately, with the wings folded over eachother, I cannot really sort out the details of the venation on the wing, which might be truly diagnostic. I have a larger resolution images, if anyone wishes to try to make out the details. Send me an email or ask via the "Comments" facility.
Also, in general, the Braconids seem to be smaller wasps than Ichneumonids. That would fit with mine being a Braconid, but size seems to be the least reliable guide to classification.
There is that glimpse of a yellow waist again.
For Australian images, the best match I could find is from "" by Nick Monaghan. Nick started out in Queensland, but has moved to "leafy Montrose" as he calls it, in Melbourne. He classifies his insect as an Unknown Ichneumon Wasp.

The closest image I found is this one, from Springfield, Virginia, USA. Many of these images have been "moved" (reclassified) from one group to the other, as the experts try to make up their minds about it. That linked image, another with obvious similarities to my Wasp, is now considered to be an Ichneumonid, of the Subfamily Tersilochinae.

Any offers of assistance with ID of my creature would be much appreciated.

By the way, the reference to "experts" in any "field" one strays into, was a hint to the work of Dr. Yasemin ÖZDEMİR (from Turkey), from a Museum there, in Ankara. She has produced a visual guide to the "DIAGNOSTIC FEATURES OF THE SUBFAMILIES OF ICHNEUMONIDAE" Unfortunately, I cannot work out what it is I am looking at (on the website), but clearly, she can. There appear to be no labels.But great detailed images, and all classified by family, it seems.


catmint said...

Hi Denis, I can't help you with the wasp, but found it a fascinating post, and am impressed by the power of the macro lens. I have been thinking of getting one.
I have a question and wonder if you can help me out. On my latest post I photographed two cocoons. Do you know what they are?
Cheers, catmint

Mosura said...

Don't know what it is but based on wing venation I would put it in Ichneumonidae. I'll send you an email to show why.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mosura.
I more or less concluded that.
I favoured the Braconids at first, just on size.
But eventually decided the closest "match" was in the Ichneumonids.
Looking forward to your email.
(deniswilson23 at bigpond dot com)

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Catmint
I have gone to your Blog and added comments there.
Short answer "Bagworm Moths" as Wikipedia calls them, or "Casemoths" as I know them.
In the group of crazy moths called Psychids.
I am sorry I missed your post before.
I have added your Blog to my list of "Aussie Nature Bloggers" which is self-updating, so I will see your new entries in future.

@steve_happ said...

hi dennis
i have no idea. but have you seen peter's site ?
It is an excellent reference site.

On a sidetrack, i have been taking a few photos of fungi lately but have no idea what they are. Have a look here if you want to.

That and the previous day's post. I have a photo of a starfish fungus which is quite unusual.