The purpose of this handbook is to give Nearctic workers a starting
point from which to explore the remarkable diversity of chalcidoid wasps.
As with many endeavors, simply getting started is often a most difficult
task in itself. Chalcidoids, as well as many other groups of relatively
small, inconspicuous insects, have been overlooked by student, amateur,
and professional alike. Yet such groups are often of greater economic importance
than their tiny size would indicate.
This manual is designed to work for the Nearctic Region, which we define
as the Americas north of Mexico. In reality the keys will work for most of
northern Mexico as well.
It is important to realize that chalcidoid taxonomy is still in its infancy;
we easily discover striking new species within a ten minute ride from the
nation's capital. Imagine how little we know of the pantropical faunas!
Historically, few researchers have worked on these wasps, and the number
of species remaining undescribed may easily be 5 times the nearly 19,000
species already described. With so few workers and an abundant, unknown
fauna it is little wonder that few pieces of the chalcidoid puzzle have
yet been assembled.
We have attempted, within this handbook, to present information as simply,
clearly, and accurately as possible, while at the same time highlighting
a few of the problems yet to overcome. We feel it is important to present
a balanced conspectus of the Chalcidoidea so that pitfalls may be avoided,
but we also want this handbook to be as "user friendly" as possible.
This handbook is an outgrowth of the Parasitic Hymenoptera Training Sessions,
presented under the auspices of the Maryland Center for Systematic Entomology
(University of Maryland, College Park), beginning in 1981. Over 225 participants
reviewed the materials presented herein, and we revised the contents on
an annual basis to reflect their input. Participants included students,
technicians, and research entomologists (both private and public) with interests
ranging from taxonomy, ecology, behavior, biological control, pest management,
and public health. Thanks to the input from all of these "critics"
we feel that the handbook is finally ready for public use and that it will
be a resource of first choice for those interested in identifying and studying
the chalcidoid wasps. We also thank Steve Heydon who contributed to our
treatment of pteromalid subfamilies and provided many useful suggestions.
We also appreciate the thorough and helpful reviews of this paper by P.
Marsh, S. Heydon, D. Ferguson, R. Wharton, T. Henry, G. Steyskal, and B.
Alexander. D. Roney, L. Lawrence, and M. Cooley drew many of the illustrations
used in the key and the text.
Washington, D.C. 1990