Five new wasp species were recently described in the journal Zootaxa. All of them are Braconid wasps, belonging to the genus Cremnops, which belongs to the subfamily Agathidinae. Members of the genus Cremnops occur in terrestrial habitats worldwide and are known to be parasitoids of caterpillars in the families Pyralidae and Crambidae.
As is often the case, four of the new species were not found in the Amazon or some other wild area, but instead were found in museum cabinets in the United States.
“Most of the new species we described were based on specimens found in museum collections,” said PhD student Erika Tucker, one of the co-authors from the University of Kentucky. “Most people don’t realize that there are undoubtedly millions of specimens in museums around the world that remain unidentified. There simply aren’t enough taxonomists.”
According to the authors, species of Cremnops “superficially resemble the mythological steed Pegasus, which leads us to propose the common name ‘Pegasus wasps’ for members of this genus. Specimens of Cremnops have a distinctive elongate equine-like head, wings, and like Pegasus they play a heroic role acting as defenders of plants under lepidopteran attack.”
“The genus Cremnops is fun to work with for several reasons,” Tucker said. “Size-wise, they are relatively large compared to many other parasitoid wasps and they have many striking color patterns and interesting morphological characters. All of them have a rostrum face that reminds me of a horse — in this case a winged horse with extra legs — and they attack Crambidae larvae, which are often of biological/agricultural concern.”Tucker and her co-authors named one of the new species Cremnops wileycoyotius after J. Wiley, the person who collected it in 1975 for the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, and because it “sneakily (like the well-known canine) remained undescribed until now.” Another species, Cremnops witkopegasus, was named “for Crazy Horse, the Native American war leader of the Lakota people. Witko means crazy in the Lakota language and a Pegasus is a winged horse.”
The other three new species are called C. cluttsis, C. nymphius, and C. bertae.
“C. bertae was actually found right here in Kentucky in one of the malaise traps my lab was running,” Tucker said, making it the only new species of the five that was found in the wild. “There are tons of new species out there just waiting to be described — in museums and potentially in your own backyard. We just need more taxonomists and the money to hire them to work on identifying them. ”
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