Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps


Compiler and date details

23 July 2012 - John S. Noyes, The Natural History Museum, London & Danielle N. Stringer, John T. Jennings & Andrew D. Austin, Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, and the School of Earth and Environmental Science, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

31 December 2002 - John S. Noyes, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, UK; Steve Shattuck and John La Salle, CSIRO Entomology, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT


The Chalcidoidea is an extremely large superfamily, which contains many insects of importance to man. It is found in abundance in all parts of the World, with over 21,000 described species in 19 families (Noyes 2002). The Chalcidoidea has been responsible for more successful biological control programs than any other group of insects, and they also can contribute to maintaining balance in natural ecosystems. They are a fascinating group to study because of their wide range of biology and unusual morphological features. However, due mainly to their small size and difficult morphology, they are also notoriously difficult to study. This has resulted in unresolved taxonomic problems at all levels, such as: it is likely that only about 20% of chalcids have yet been described; there is no clear picture of relationships between the chalcid families; the composition of families is also a matter of some debate; sibling species are frequent, and identification of closely related species or species complexes is problematical. However, there is a certain seductive attraction to their amazing biology, their often brilliant metallic colours or other colour patterns, their strange morphological adaptations, and their overall importance in both natural and agricultural ecosystems that lures people to devote their attention to them. Indeed, the eccentric Australian chalcidologist A.A. Girault (1925) called them "gem-like inhabitants of woodlands, by most never seen nor dreamt of".

There is still some disagreement about the limits and numbers of families within the Chalcidoidea. We are following several recent authors who do not include the Mymarommatidae in the Chalcidoidea, but place it in a separate superfamily (Gibson et al. 1999; Noyes 2002). The classification of families basically follows that of Boucek (1988) and Gibson et al. (1997); however, the Elasmidae is no longer considered as a distinct family and has been placed in the Eulophidae (Gauthier et al. 2000). There are currently 19 families included in the Chalcidoidea. One of them, Rotoitidae, does not occur in Australia.

The Chalcidoidea exhibits a remarkable range of biology. The majority of species are parasitoids, and attack insects in 13 orders, as well as ticks, spider eggs, pseudoscorpions and gall-forming mites and nematodes. Parasitoid forms can be internal or external, solitary or gregarious, specialists or generalists, idiobionts or koinobionts, primary parasitoids, hyperparasitoids or facultative hyperparasitoids. 'Predatory' species have larvae which can consume many prey within an enclosed space, such as a gall or an egg sac. Host stages include eggs, larvae, pupae and even adults. Phytophagy has arisen secondarily on numerous occasions, and phytophagous species can be seed infesters, gall formers or inquilines, or stem borers. Some species are entomophytophagous, beginning their development on an insect host, and completing their development on plant tissue when the host is consumed.

Literature. There are a few key works for anyone wanting to study Australian Chalcidoidea. The first is the monumental volume produced by Boucek (1988) on Australasian Chalcidoidea. Although this only treats fourteen of the 19 families, it remains an indispensable resource for this group in the Australasian region. The second essential work is the interactive electronic catalogue to Chalcidoidea of the world produced by Noyes (2002), and this supersedes several regional catalogues. This catalogue has recently been put on the web, and can be accessed at

There are several keys to the families of Chalcidoidea from various parts of the world, and these include: Boucek 1988: Australasia; Gauld & Bolton 1988: (Key by J.S. Noyes) U.K., but also appropriate to NW Europe; Prinsloo 1980: Southern Africa, but very useful for the Afrotropical fauna; Trjapitzin (ed.), 1978, 1987: European USSR; Delvare & Aberlenc 1989: Africa and Neotropics, very useful keys to all families of Hymenoptera; Grissell & Schauff 1997a, 1997b: North America. Since most chalcid families occur in all geographic regions, these keys are for the most part universally applicable.

General overviews of the Chalcidoidea, usually containing information on classification and biology, include: Gordh (1979); Prinsloo (1980); Grissell & Schauff (1997a, 1997b). Gibson et al. (1999) reviewed the current concepts of phylogeny and classification within this superfamily. Information on collecting and preserving chalcid wasps was provided by Noyes (1982), and a handbook on rearing parasitic Hymenoptera in general was provided by Shaw (1997).

Other treatments of parasitic wasps or parasitic insects in general include: Clausen 1940; Askew 1971; Waage & Greathead 1986; LaSalle 1993; Godfray 1994 and Quicke 1997.


General References

Askew, R.R. 1971. Parasitic Insects. London : Heinemann Educational 316 pp.

Boucek, Z. 1988. Australasian Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera). A biosystematic revision of genera of fourteen families, with a reclassification of species. London : CAB International 832 pp.

Clausen, C.P. 1940. Entomophagous insects. New York : McGraw-Hill 688 pp.

Delvare, G. & Aberlenc, H.-P. 1989. Les Insectes d'Afrique et d'Amérique Tropicale; Clés pour la Reconnaisance des Familles. Montpellier : PRIFAS/CIRAD 302 pp.

Gauld, I. & Bolton, B. (Eds.) 1988. The Hymenoptera. Oxford : Oxford University Press 332 pp.

Gauthier, N., LaSalle, J., Quicke, D.L.J. & Godfray, H.C.J. 2000. Phylogeny of Eulophidae (Hymenoptera, Chalcidoidea), with a reclassification of Eulophinae and the recognition that Elasmidae are derived eulophids. Systematic Entomology 25: 521-539

Gibson, G.A.P., Heraty, J.M. & Woolley, J.B. 1999. Phylogenetics and classification of Chalcidoidea and Mymarommatoidea — a review of current concepts (Hymenoptera, Apocrita). Zoologica Scripta 28: 87-124

Gibson, G.A.P., Huber, J.T. & Woolley, J.B. (eds) 1997. Annotated Keys to the Genera of Nearctic Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada : National Research Council Research Press 794 pp.

Girault, A.A. 1925. Some gem-like or marvellous inhabitants of the woodlands heretofore unknown and by most never seen nor dreamt. Privately Published. 3 pp.

Godfray, H.C.J. 1994. Parasitoids: Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology. Monographs in Behavior and Ecology. Princeton, New Jersey : Princeton University Press 473 pp.

Gordh, G. 1979. Chalcidoidea. pp. 743-748 in Krombein, K.V., Hurd, P.D. Smith, D.R. & Burks, P.D. Catalogue of Hymenoptera in America North of Mexico. Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press Vol. 1-3 2735 pp.

Grissell, E.E. & Schauff, M.E. 1977. A handbook of the families of Nearctic Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera). Washington, D.C. : Entomological Society of Washington.

Grissell, E.E. & Schauff, M.E. 1997. Superfamily Chalcidoidea. pp. 45-116 in Gibson, G.A.P., Huber, J.T. & Woolley, J.B. (eds). Annotated Keys to the Genera of Nearctic Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada : National Research Council Research Press 794 pp.

LaSalle, J. 1993. Parasitic Hymenoptera, Biological Control, and Biodiversity. pp. 197-215 in LaSalle, J. & Gauld, I.D. (eds). Hymenoptera and Biodiversity. Wallingford, UK : CAB International 348 pp.

Noyes, J.S. 1982. Collecting and preserving chalcid wasps. Journal of Natural History 23: 285-298

Noyes, J.S. 2002. Interactive Catalogue of World Chalcidoidea. (2001, second edition). CD-Rom, Taxapad and The Natural History Museum, London, UK.

Prinsloo, G.L. 1980. An illustrated guide to the families of African Chalcidoidea (Insects: Hymenoptera). Science Bulletin Dept Agriculture and Fisheries, South Africa 395: 1-66

Quicke, D.L.J. 1997. Parasitic Wasps. ?London : Chapman & Hall 470 pp.

Shaw, M.R. 1997. Rearing Parasitic Hymenoptera. The Amateur Entomologist 25: 1-45

Trjapitzin, V.A. 1987. Keys to the Insects of the European Part of the USSR. Volume III Hymenoptera Part II. Leiden : E.J. Brill 1341 pp. [English translation]

Trjapitzin, V.A. (ed.) 1978. Keys to the Insects of the European Part of the USSR. Volume III Hymenoptera Part II. Leningrad : Nauka 761 pp. [in Russian]

Waage, J. & Greathead, D. (eds) 1986. Insect Parasitoids. London : Academic Press.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
07-Aug-2012 25-Jul-2012 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)