Chalcid wasp

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Chalcid wasp
Temporal range: Cretaceous-Present
Omphale cornula
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Suborder: Apocrita
Infraorder: Proctotrupomorpha
Superfamily: Chalcidoidea

See text

Leucospis gigas, family Leucospidae
Eurytoma gigantea female, family Eurytomidae
Torymus female, family Torymidae
Balcha indica, family Eupelmidae

Chalcid wasps (/ˈkælsɪd/, from Greek khalkos 'copper', for their metallic colour)[1] are insects within the superfamily Chalcidoidea, part of the order Hymenoptera. The superfamily contains some 22,500 known species, and an estimated total diversity of more than 500,000 species, meaning the vast majority have yet to be discovered and described.[2] The name "chalcid" is often confused with the name "chalcidid", though the latter refers strictly to one constituent family, the Chalcididae, rather than the superfamily as a whole; accordingly, most recent publications (e.g.,[2]) use the name "chalcidoid" when referring to members of the superfamily.

Most chalcid wasps are parasitoids of other insects, though other life styles are known, with the herbivorous fig wasps acting as pollinators. Various species are used as biological pest control agents or in scientific research.


Chalcidoids are generally small wasps, averaging 1.5 mm in length and usually being less than 3 mm. The body is often metallic in colour. The wings may be developed, reduced or absent. When the wings are developed, they have reduced venation or sometimes none at all.[3]

However, the group is morphologically very diverse. Chalcidoids range in size from up to 41.7 mm long (females of the pelecinellid Doddifoenus wallacei, this length includes the ovipositor[4]) to merely 0.13 mm long (males of the mymarid Dicopomorpha echmepterygis). Various lineages have convergently evolved features such as enlarged femora, enlarged acropleura, reduced numbers of antennal and tarsal segments, reduced wings or reduced wing venation. Some have significant sexual dimorphism: male fig wasps are "turtle-like fighting machines" that are very different to the females, while males of the aforementioned D. echmepterygis lack eyes, ocelli, mouthparts, antennal flagella or wings.[2]


Most chalcidoids are parasitoids, their hosts including insects, spiders, ticks and mites, pseudoscorpions and even gall-forming nematodes. Some species parasitise a wide range of hosts, while others have a narrow host range. They attack host life stages ranging from eggs to adults. The superfamily includes primary, secondary and tertiary parasitoids, both ecto- and endoparasitoids, and both solitary and gregarious parasitoids.[2][5]

There are also herbivorous chalcidoids within the families of Agaonidae, Epichrysomallidae, Eurytomidae, Eulophidae, Melanosomellidae, Ormyridae, Pteromalidae, Tanaostigmatidae and Torymidae. Agaonidae only develop within figs.[2][5][6]

Predation is exhibited by larvae of some Encyrtidae (prey on coccid eggs) and some Eurytomidae (prey on Cynipidae larvae).[5]


Chalcidoidea is one of the most important taxa of biological control agents. They are used to control pest insects in both natural and agricultural ecosystems.[2] Some herbivorous species are also used in biological control, such as the melanosomellid Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae for control of the weed Acacia longifolia.[5]

There are also chalcidoids that are agricultural pests themselves, mainly attacking plant seeds. Bruchophagus attack seeds of legumes (e.g. alfalfa), Systole attack seeds of Apiaceae used as spices (e.g. coriander) and Megastigmus attack seeds of Pinaceae grown in plantations.[5]

Females of family Agaonidae are important as pollinators of figs.[7]

Some chalcidoids, especially those in genera Trichogramma (Trichogrammatidae) and Nasonia (Pteromalidae) are model organisms in scientific research. They have been used to study sex determination, the influence of bacterial endosymbionts and the genetics of speciation.[2] The genome of moth parasitoid Copidosoma floridanum was sequenced as part of the i5K project.[8]


Chalcidoidea is a superfamily of Hymenoptera, whose family constituency is in constant flux, as new hypotheses of relationships are constantly being proposed and rejected; with the advent of molecular systematics, it seems that the future will see further revisions of the classification in use today.

There are fifty extant families recognized at present:

There are also three extinct families:

Of these families, at least five are known to be artificial groups (paraphyletic), and have been divided into several families. The most problematic, the Pteromalidae, has recently been split into 24 families, and Eupelmidae into three families.[9]


  • Key to families Grissell, E. E., and M. E. Schauff. 1990. A handbook of the families of Nearctic Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera).Entomological Society of Washington (Washington, D.C.) Handbook 1:1-85. Online at [1]
  • Gibson, G. A. P., Huber, J. T., and J. B. Woolley. 1997. Annotated keys to the genera of Nearctic Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera). NRC Research Press.[2]


  1. ^ "Chalcid". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company. 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h John M. Heraty; Roger A. Burks; Astrid Cruaud; et al. (4 January 2013). "A phylogenetic analysis of the megadiverse Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera)". Cladistics. 29 (5): 466–542. doi:10.1111/CLA.12006. ISSN 0748-3007. Wikidata Q54530727.
  3. ^ "Superfamily Chalcidoidea - Chalcidoid Wasps". Retrieved 2022-11-03.
  4. ^ LARS KROGMANN; ROGER A. BURKS (11 August 2009). "Doddifoenus wallacei, a new giant parasitoid wasp of the subfamily Leptofoeninae (Chalcidoidea: Pteromalidae), with a description of its mesosomal skeletal anatomy and a molecular characterization". Zootaxa. 2194 (1): 21–36. doi:10.11646/ZOOTAXA.2194.1.2. ISSN 1175-5334. Wikidata Q97498568.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Chalcidoidea". Retrieved 2022-11-03.
  6. ^ a b Petr Janšta; Astrid Cruaud; Gérard Delvare; Guénaëlle Genson; John Heraty; Barbora Křížková; Jean-Yves Rasplus (1 November 2017). "Torymidae (Hymenoptera, Chalcidoidea) revised: molecular phylogeny, circumscription and reclassification of the family with discussion of its biogeography and evolution of life-history traits". Cladistics. 34 (6): 627–651. doi:10.1111/CLA.12228. ISSN 0748-3007. Wikidata Q63378934.
  7. ^ Cook, James M.; Rasplus, Jean-Yves (2003). "Mutualists with attitude: coevolving fig wasps and figs". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 18 (5): 241–248. doi:10.1016/S0169-5347(03)00062-4.
  8. ^ "Copidosoma floridanum Genome Project". BCM-HGSC. 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2022-11-03.
  9. ^ Roger A. Burks; Mircea-Dan Mitroiu; Lucian Fusu; et al. (20 December 2022). "From hell's heart I stab at thee! A determined approach towards a monophyletic Pteromalidae and reclassification of Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera)". Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 94: 13–88. doi:10.3897/JHR.94.94263. ISSN 1070-9428. Wikidata Q115923766.

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