13 new wasp species discovered in Kenya, Burundi: researchers

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Researchers from the Nairobi-based global research centre and Italy have found 13 previously unknown wasp species in Kenya and Burundi.

ICIPE Scientist Robert Copeland said in a statement on Monday, wasps belong to the third largest order of insects, Hymenoptera, known more commonly as "membrane-winged" insects.

"Although well over 100,000 species of Hymenoptera are recognized globally, many more are yet to be described, with wasps, and those of Africa particularly, being insufficiently studied," Copeland said.

In naming the species, scientists from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in collaboration with colleagues from the Tropical Entomology Research Institute and the University of Tuscia, both in Italy, have immortalized various sites and individuals from the two countries, and from across the world.

Copeland observed that while in general there are significant taxonomic gaps for most living organisms, the situation is even more critical in regard to groups composed mostly of small species, as is the case for many families of wasps.

The scientist said all of the 13 new wasp species discovered recently belong to a moderately-sized cosmopolitan family of Hymenoptera, known as Dryinidae. Its members are parasitoids that feed on "true bugs", a group that attacks a wide variety of plants. As is the case with the majority of wasps, there is insufficient knowledge on the diversity of dryinid wasps, especially in Africa.

For example, the recently described wasps, along with new Kenyan records of species already known from elsewhere in Africa, bring the number of dryinid species found in Kenya to 76.

"Our studies suggest that many more species of Dryinidae remain to be recorded in Kenya, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the country where there has been little exploration," Copeland noted.

Currently, a total of 17 Dryinidae species are known only from Kenya. The majority of these species were collected in protected national forests and parks.

Globally, parasitic wasps are increasingly being used in the biological control of crop pests. ICIPE has in the past recorded significant success in using wasps to control pests of cabbages and maize in Africa. Endi

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