HomeWasp classificationExpeditionsLinksFigWebBiodiversity ExplorerPermits


of the Afrotropical Region

(Life: Kingdom: Metazoa (animals); Phylum: Arthropoda; Class: Hexapoda; Order: Hymenoptera;  Superfamily: Ichneumonoidea)


ClassificationIdentification keys




Idiobiont or Koinobiont endo or ectoparasitoids of immature insects (Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera, Hymenoptera, Rhaphidioptera, Trichoptera) or Chelcerata (Araneae and Pseudoscorpionida eggs, adult Araneae).


Bennett, A.M.R., Sääksjärvi, I.E. and Broad, G.R.  2013Revision of the New World species of Erythrodolius (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Sisyrostolinae), with a key to the world species. Zootaxa 3702 (5): 425–436. http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3702.5.2

Bennett AMR, Cardinal S, Gauld ID, Wahl DB 2019. Phylogeny of the subfamilies of Ichneumonidae (Hymenoptera). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 71: 1-156. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.71.32375

Broad GR. 2021. Taxonomic changes in Ichneumonoidea (Hymenoptera), and notes on certain type specimens. Zootaxa 4941: 511–541. http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4941.4.3

Hopkins T, Roininen H, Sääksjärvi IE. 2018. Assessing the species richness of Afrotropical ichneumonid wasps with randomly placed traps provides ecologically informative data. African Entomology 26: 350-358. http://dx.doi.org/10.4001/003.026.0350

Klopfstein S, Santos BF, Shaw MR, Alvarado M, Bennett AMR, Dal Pos D, Giannotta M, Herrera Florez AF, Karlsson D, Khalaim AI, Lima AR, Alessandro R, Mikó I, Sääksjärvi IE, Shimizu S, Spasojevic T, van Noort S, Vilhelmsen L, Broad GR. 2019. Darwin wasps: a new name heralds renewed efforts to unravel the evolutionary history of Ichneumonidae. Entomological Communications 1: ec01006–ec01006

Quicke, D. L. 2014. The Braconid and Ichneumonid Parasitoid Wasps: Biology, Systematics, Evolution and Ecology. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 704 pages.

Quicke, D.L.J., Laurenne, N.M., Fitton, M.G. & Broad, G.R. 2009. A thousand and one wasps: a 28S rDNA and morphological phylogeny of the Ichneumonidae (Insecta: Hymenoptera) with an investigation into alignment parameter space and elision. Journal of Natural History, 43: 1305–1421. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00222930902807783

Reynolds Berry T, van Noort S. 2020. Revision of the endemic Afrotropical genus Tetractenion (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae) with an identification key to genera of Banchinae for the region. ZooKeys 1007: 49-84. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1007.55543

Santos BF. 2017. Phylogeny and reclassification of Cryptini (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Cryptinae), with implications for ichneumonid higher-level classification. Systematic Entomology. doi:10.1111/syen.12238

Santos BF, Alvarado M, Sääksjärvi IE, van Noort S, Villemant C & Brady SG. 2018. Molecular phylogeny of Ateleutinae (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae): systematics and biogeography of a widespread parasitoid wasp lineage. Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society zly072 https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zly072

Seyrig, A. 1932. Les Ichneumonides de Madagascar I. Ichneumonidae: Pimplinae. Mémoires de l'Académie Malgache, 11, 1–183.

Townes, H. 1944-1945. A catalogue and reclassification of the Nearctic Ichneumonidae (Hymenoptera). Memoirs of the American Entomological Society 11 (1-2): 925.

Townes, H. & M.C. Townes. 1945. A key to the genera of Eclytini (= Thymaridini) and a revision of the Neotropical species (Hymenoptera, lchneumonidae). Boletín de Entomologia Venezolana 4: 41-53.

Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1950. A revision of the genera and of the American species of Tryphonini (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 42: 321-447.

Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1951. Family Ichneumonidae. In C.F.W. Muesebeck, K. V. Krombein & H.K. Townes. Hymenoptera of America North of Mexico -- synoptic catalog. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Monograph 2: 1-1420.

Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1952. A revision of the genera and of the Nearctic species of Grypocentrini (Hymenoptera, lchneumonidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 53: 301-313.

Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1959. Ichneumon-flies of America north of Mexico: 1. Subfamily Metopiinae. United States National Museum Bulletin 216(1): 1-318.

Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1960. Ichneumon-flies of America north of Mexico: 2. Subfamilies Ephialtinae, Xoridinae,and Acaenitinae. United States National Museum Bulletin 216(2): 1-676.

Townes, H., M. Townes & V.K. Gupta. 1961. A catalogue and reclassification of the lndo-Australian lchneumonidae. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 1: 1-522.

Townes, H. & V.K. Gupta. 1962. Ichneumon-flies of America north of Mexico: 4. Subfamily Gelinae, tribe Hemigasterini. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 2: 1-305.
Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1962. Ichneumon-flies of America north of Mexico: 3. Subfamily Gelinae, tribe Mesostenini. United States National Museum Bulletin 216(3): 1-602.

Townes, H., S. Momoi & M. Townes. 1965. A catalogue and reclassification of the eastern Palearctic Ichneumonidae. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 5: 1-671.

Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1966. A catalogue and reclassification of the Neotropic lchneurnonidae. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 8: 1-367.

Townes, H. 1969. The genera of lchneumonidae, part 1. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 11: 1-300.

Townes, H. 1970. The genera of Ichneumonidae, part 2. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 12: 1-537.
Townes, H. 1970. The genera of Ichneumonidae, part 3. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 13: 1-307.

Townes, H. 1971. The genera of lchneumonidae, part 4. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 17: 1-372.

Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1973. A catalogue and reclassification of the Ethiopian Ichneumonidae. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 19: 1-416.

Townes, H. & M. Townes. 1978. Ichneumon-flies of America north of Mexico: 7. Subfamily Banchinae, tribes Lissonotini and Banchini. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 26: 1-614.

Townes, H. 1983. Revision of twenty genera of Gelini (Ichneumonidae). Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 35:1-281.

Townes, H., V.K. Gupta & M. Townes. 1992. Ichneumon-flies of America North of Mexico: 11. Subfamily Tryphoninae, Tribes Oedemopsini, Tryphonini, and Idiogrammatini. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 51: 1-292.

Varga, O. 2019. Revision of the Afrotropical Xorides Latréille, 1809 (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Xoridinae), with description of three new species. Zootaxa 4638: 57–80. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4638.1.2.

Wahl, D.B. 1993. Family ichneumonidae (pp. 395-448). In GOULET, H. & HUBER, J. (eds). Hymenoptera of the World: an identification guide to families. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Canada, 668 pp.

Yu D.S., van Achterberg, K., Horstmann, K. 2011. World Ichneumonoidea 2011. Taxonomy, biology, morphology and distribution. Available from Vancouver, Canada: Taxapad. www.taxapad.com


Photographs © Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa).

Classification of Afrotropical Ichneumonidae


South African Ichneumonidae

Dicky Yu's Taxapad database of World Ichneumonoidea

David Wahl's classification and systematics of world Ichneumonidae 

A manipulative ichneumonid wasp

Aim of this web site

An E-typing initiative to photographically document the type specimens of Afrotropical ichneumonids to facilitate the identification of specimens collected during biodiversity inventory surveys. Types of 604 species, representing 314 of the 360 Afrotropical genera, have so far been photographed in European museums and web pages are currently being developed for these species. Species pages can be accessed through the Classification pages. Online keys are currently being developed.

Ichneumonid species richness

The Ichneumonidae is one of the most species rich families of all organisms with an estimated 60 000 species in the world (Townes 1969). Even so, many authorities regard this figure as an underestimate (Gauld 1991). An estimated 12 100 species of Ichneumonidae occur in the Afrotropical region (Africa south of the Sahara and including Madagascar and surrounding islands) (Townes & Townes 1973), of which only 2097 species have been described in the 360 genera in 26 subfamilies recorded from the Afrotropical region (Yu et al 2011). This means that only 17% of the Afrotropical ichneumonids are known to science!

Ichneumonid diversity assessment in Africa

Quantitative studies of ichneumonid species richness are scarce in Africa. A limited number of assessments have been conducted in Sierra Leone and Uganda (Owen & Owen 1974); Namibia (van Noort et al. 2000); Gabon (van Noort 2004); Central African Republic (van Noort in prep.), Tanzania (van Noort in prep.) and South Africa (van Noort in prep.).  Very little is known about the ichneumonid faunas of the majority of African countries.

Latitudinal gradients of ichneumonid species richness

The Ichneumonidae, along with other groups of parasitic Hymenoptera, are supposedly no more species rich in the tropics than in the Northern Hemisphere temperate regions (Owen & Owen 1974; Janzen 1981; Janzen & Pond 1975), although a number of hymenopteran families, for example the Chalcididae (Hespenheide 1979) and Encyrtidae (Noyes 1989b) exhibit an increase in species richness with a decrease in latitude. Other hymenopteran taxa such as sawflies (Symphyta), gall-forming Cynipidae and bees (Apoidea) peak in species richness at mid or high latitudes (Michener 1979; Noyes 1989b; Kouki et al. 1994). Considerable debate has centered on the apparent species richness anomaly exhibited by a number of hymenopteran parasitoid taxa in the tropics (see Morrison et al. 1978; Gauld 1991; Gauld & Gaston 1994).

Importance of ichneumonids

Ichneumonids utilise a diverse array of insects and arachnids as their hosts and play an essential role in the normal functioning of most ecosystems, underlining the need to inventory their diversity. Ichneumonids have been used successfully as biocontrol agents and given the largely undocumented fauna there is a huge potential for their use in managed biocontrol programmes (Gupta 1991). Comprehensive quantitative biodiversity surveys will enable the identification of hotspots of species richness and endemism; essential base line data that will enable informed future conservation management decisions.


This project was made possible by an International Science Liaison research grant (GUN 2068865) received from the National Research Foundation (South Africa) in conjunction with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
I am particularly grateful to my Italian colleague, Professor Massimo Olmi (Department of Plant Protection at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo) and his wife Rosella for their very kind hospitality and support during our stay in Italy. I would also like to thank all the curators of collections housing Afrotropical ichneumonid types for their kind assistance and hospitality during my visits to their institutions (in no particular order): Roberto Poggi (Museo Civico Di Storia Naturale “Giacomo Doria” in Genova); Mauro Daccordi (Museo e Instituto di Zoologia Sistematica in Torino); Claire Villemant (Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle Paris); Eliane de Coninck and Joseph de Becker (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren); Patrick Grootaert (Royal Belgium Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels); John Noyes and Sondra Ward (Natural History Museum London); Stefan Schmidt and Eric Diller (Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen).


Photographs © Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa).

Web author Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum)


Citation: van Noort, S. 2021. WaspWeb: Hymenoptera of the Afrotropical region. URL: www.waspweb.org (accessed on <day/month/year>).

Copyright 2004-2021 Iziko Museums of South Africa

customisable counter