Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes

Upcoming Events

Discussion of 2018 gathering

Photos of insects and people from the 2015 gathering in Wisconsin, July 10-12

Photos of insects and people from the 2014 gathering in Virginia, June 4-7.

Photos of insects and people from the 2013 gathering in Arizona, July 25-28

Photos of insects and people from the 2012 gathering in Alabama

Photos of insects and people from the 2011 gathering in Iowa

Photos from the 2010 Workshop in Grinnell, Iowa

Photos from the 2009 gathering in Washington

Ichneumonidae classification

At the tribe and subfamily level we are mixing old names by Townes and new names by other authors in Ichneumonidae. I'm noticing this because Bob Carlson is identifying pictures with new names and they don't match our old names.

I think the distinction is between old and new instead of an ongoing conflict of authority.

What should our policy be? Should the Ohio State page linked from our family page ( control, along with other modern checklists implied by its use?

My recent page creations start here: I'm sure I added to the problem.

New link
Those interested in the family may like this French page on European wasps,, which is well illustrated with pictures, full of descriptions, and supervised by that rare creature, somebody who has studied the family: "Ces pages ont été corrigées et actualisées avec l'aide de Joël Valemberg (Ichneumonologue depuis 1965, Président de la Société Entomologique du Nord de la France, conseiller scientifique...) qui a également déterminé la plupart des photos." (When I called it a French page, I meant it's page after page of French with not an English word to be found.)

There is a picture of a caterpillar with an Ichneumon larva attached on the second page (Ichneumoninae).

"...not an English word"
the best Parasitica site i could find is in Catalan -- with no word in English (or French, for that matter)

Changes made
I added a note to the family page saying we follow the Wahl catalog and added a citable node for it, 338187(1).

Ephialtinae is now empty and will be deleted shortly. Acrotaphus moved to Pimplinae:Ephialtini. The other pair of pictures moved to Pimplinae.

Gelinae is now Cryptinae. Mesostenini is now Cryptini. Gelini is now Phygadeuontini. (I saw no reason to create subtribe Gelina, which may be Townes' Gelini, at this time.)

In Ichneumoninae I created tribes Ichneumonini and Heresiarchini. This is not a name change but organizational consistency. My practice is, if a subfamily has any tribes then tribes should be created if they would contain two or more genera, or would contain pictures identifiable to tribe and not genus, and should not be created solely to hold a single genus.

In Pimplinae, I created tribe Pimplini for the same reason.

Reading about the history of classification reminded me of the dispute over the Meigen 1800 vs. Meigen 1803 names for Diptera. The ICZN required use of the 1800 names, waited a few decades for them to become settled, and then suppressed the 1800 names in favor of the 1803 names. Townes followed the ICZN in his 1945 revision of Tendipedini; many other Americans resisted.

an idea
It would help settle things with the ichneumonid section once and for all [i wish...] if we proactively create the complete set of higher-level pages for all the subfamilies and tribes known up to date from the Nearctic Region based on the Wahl catalog –- and add [if not yet done] a clear statement on the family Info page that this is the classification adopted by BugGuide and any names inconsistent therewith shall be subject to adjustment.
Notes regarding the relationships of the current taxa to Townes’s may be included on info pages as appropriate.
This will be a one-time job that will save time in the future and prevent a lot of confusion. Hopefully.
BugGuide’s ichneumonid section, however modest-looking given the enormity of the fauna, will be the best available illustrated source online.
I'm ready to help, of course. Having Bob onboard is inspiring.

What do you guys think?

Done or premature
Last night I put a note on the family page about classification. I think that note, this forum, and the use of new names by our new most active Ichneumonid identifier should prevent too many problems. (Richard Vernier and Ross Hill have made IDs using Townes' names in the past.)

We have 20 subfamilies. There are 39 in the catalog. 19 empty subfamilies is too much clutter. There are a lot of tribes too; I oppose creating a lot of tribe pages with nothing to put in them.

BugGuide ought to have a text field that only appears on the taxonomy page, intended primarily for editors, where we can put a short warning to people about to create or reorder pages. "Insecta is in phylogenetic order, not alphabetic." "Ichneumonidae follows the classification of Wahl and not Townes."

  • We don't need blank tribal pages at this point, I agree.
  • Only 13 of the still missing subfamilies have been reported from the Nearctic Region, but 9 of them are represented in our area by a single genus each, and only one (Orthocentrinae) is fairly diverse, with 24 genera present in North America. So these can wait, too -- John's right.
  • A special message/warning box available on Taxonomy pages is a great idea indeed.
  • I've added the Wahl vs. Townes warning to the info page. Feel free to edit, move, or delete.
Thanks, John, for your work on this section.

Input from Bob Carlson re: remaining subfamilies
“Some of the critters in those other subfamilies are pretty small, so if people upload pics of them, they might wind up among Braconidae. Without being able to see the venation, there would be a low likelihood that they would get moved to Ichneumonidae. I would say that the Lycrorininae would be the most likely to be uploaded; they aren't too tiny and sort of resemble Glyptini. The orthocentrines probably do their host searching in the leaf litter and probably aren't seen on foliage. Pictures of them should be recognizable, but I doubt that many are ever taken. Evidently, Orthocentrinae were found in this study. (I am not going to pay $31.50 to read it, though.) A photo of an orthocentrine.”

Sounds good
Sometimes adding empty pages is frowned upon but that shouldn't be a serious obstacle, provided that we add some information to the empty (no images) pages; also, we are talking about just a handful of new pages if we just limit ourselves to the missing subfamily pages. Perhaps the creation of tribe pages could wait a little longer.

Nomenclature of Ichneumonidae
I am adhering to the nomenclature and classification cited on David Wahl's web page on the Ohio State University Server:

In the 1979 catalog, with the exception of the name Cryptinae, I followed the Townesian nomenclature, that, with the exception of Virendra Gupta and perhaps one or two others, went out of use with the passing of Townes. Townes disputed certain rulings of the International Commission, but much time has passed, and I think those are no longer disputable.

To the best of my knowledge, Wahl is keeping his list up to date as he and others modify classifications based upon cladistic analyses that, in some cases, may include new information provided from molecular studies. This, for example, has resulted in his use of the name Alomyini instead of Phaeogenini simply because he combined the alomyines with the phaegenines, and Alomyini has priority. I believe that the changes in Wahl nomenclature reflect the advance of knowledge concerning the classification of Ichneumonidae. That is as it should be.

If anyone knows
how to get in touch with Bob Carlson, it would be great to get his take on what standard we should be following. He wrote the Ichneumonidae section of the Catalog of Hymenoptera (1), but that was published 31 years ago so obviously it's not the way to go.

i'll refer him to this thread
thank you John for bringing this to our attn -- the problem must be dealt with quickly, otherwise we face a huge mess indeed...

Oops, sorry- you put together the two words that strike fear in the hearts of all but a few specialists.

It's such a huge group- but with such a low profile- that no one seems to have got it all worked out yet. Every source is going to disagree with every other source, and I wouldn't put it past some sources to change their minds from one sentence to the next...

Nearctica (our current standard) is at least a decade out of date, and rather slap-dash in places, but at least it covered everything. Now it's going away, and we'll have to rework things.

I have no problem with the catalog you mentioned- I believe I was the one who put it on the guide page- but I'm not sure if it's been updated since its creation 10 years ago. It's more up-to-date than Nearctica, and it was compiled by a specialist- but 10 years is a long time.

Another possibility is the Hymenoptera Name Server, which is based on the Hymenoptera Online Database. I really don't know how up-to-date it is.

I believe ITIS has its own system, as well- but I doubt it's complete. Their main source seems to be something called the NODC Taxonomic Code, which seems to be from NASA.

Whatever we use, it's going to take a good bit of work getting everything consistent with the new standard. I'll help as much as I can.

If you'll excuse me, I have to go now... there's no room to hide under my bed, and I'm not sure what else to do...


Nearctica in not a standard. It is a set of web pages by a guy that I know personally who makes his own rules of nomenclature. For one, he decided that all endings of species names should remain as they were originally rather than being in gender agreement with the current genus, as is specified in the rules of Zoological Nomenclature. I haven't the faintest idea what he does with group names of Ichneumonidae; he's a lepidopterist and doesn't know a thing about Ichneumonidae or other Hymenoptera, yet alone Coleoptera or Diptera, etc., etc.

Bob could you please add a little information to your account page? Many of the editors, including me, aren't experts in any field nor do we know the experts in the fields (sorry). That means we may just file the images where we are instructed and in the case of disagreement opt for a safer location rather than knowing how to break the tie. Listing some information about yourself will help the editors and contributors know that your IDs are well informed and not just the “guesses” that most of us make. Thanks for all of your help; I’m looking forward to posting more of my wasp images now that there is hope!

Nearctica was chosen more out of convenience than for any taxonomic merit: it was an online source that covered all the species in BugGuide. In other words, it's a default to make sure we're covering everything.

As for the gender issue: unfortunately, Nearctica's approach is far from unique to Nearctica. I would go so far as to say that Nearctica is well within the mainstream for Lepidoptera checklists found online. Whatever else I use from Nearctica, I ignore the endings.

As we've found and agreed on references, we've abandoned it for the areas covered. The goal has always been to phase it out- it's just there are huge areas where we're not ready to phase it out... because we don't have anything to replace it.

The Ichneumonidae has been one of those areas: although we've been fortunate in having the participation of genuine authorities in other groups of Hymenoptera, nobody's been able to do much with this one.

We've had non-specialists who've taken an interest in one part of BugGuide's subject matter or another and managed to get things in decent shape. The Ichneumonidae, on the other hand, is too huge and complex, with too few resources available, for anyone to even think about tackling it.

You know more about the family than all the rest of us put together. If you have confidence in David Wahl's site, that's all I need to know. I spent some time looking through it a couple of years ago, but only had the chance to skim through it this time.

A quick scan failed to turn up any dates after 1999 in the bibliography or in the few taxa I looked at, so I thought I should mention the possibility of it not being updated. I'm more than happy to be wrong.

The goofy tone of my last message aside, I'm delighted to see someone of your stature helping us out, and will gladly pitch in to make whatever changes are needed to get us up to proper standards.

Lepidoptera & Endings
Yes, Poole isn't a lone voice among lepidopterists on the gender agreement issue. At the time of my retirement from SEL, I was in charge of the unit that handles the identification service and was managing the ID database. I would do SQL queries for names with endings that were not in synch with the names of the genera, and most of the specialists would agree when I detected an error and want to correct it. But it was pointless to call such things to the attention of lepidopterists. The only gripe any of them seemed to have with Nearctica was with its misspellings--Poole works fast and not always carefully.

One of the most common errors was with generic names ending in -ma. Most, but not all, of those are neuter. An example is Spilosoma, wherein soma is the neuter Greek noun for body. Therefore, Spilosoma virginica is incorrect; it should be virginicum. The original combination was Bombyx virginica, which was correct, but you will see from Nearctica that even when species were described in Spilosoma by various authors that should have known better, they used feminine endings. By dint of their collective ignorance, the Lepidopterists hope that the rules will be changed.

Incidentally, the species originally described as Bombyx americana is correctly cited as Malacosoma americanum in BugGuide and many other places, but, of course, Nearctica has it as americana because that was the original ending. The situation is truly rather scaly. :)

Comment viewing options
Select your preferred way to display the comments and click 'Save settings' to activate your changes.