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First report of Melittobia australica Girault in Europe and new record of M. acasta (Walker) for Italy.
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PMID:  22539910     Owner:  NLM     Status:  PubMed-not-MEDLINE    
Melittobia acasta and Melittobia australica are newly recorded from Sicily, Italy, and the second species is reported in Europe for the first time. A short historical background about Melittobia parasitoid wasps, their hosts, and distribution, with emphasis in those two species is presented together with illustrations to facilitate their identification. Brief discussion about the presence and possible distribution of the species in Sicily is also included.
Antonino Cusumano; Jorge M González; Stefano Colazza; S Bradleigh Vinson
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Type:  Journal Article     Date:  2012-04-06
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Title:  ZooKeys     Volume:  -     ISSN:  1313-2970     ISO Abbreviation:  Zookeys     Publication Date:  2012  
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Created Date:  2012-04-27     Completed Date:  2012-08-23     Revised Date:  2013-05-29    
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Nlm Unique ID:  101497933     Medline TA:  Zookeys     Country:  Bulgaria    
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Languages:  eng     Pagination:  45-51     Citation Subset:  -    
Dipartimento DEMETRA, Universitá degli Studi di Palermo, Viale delle scienze, 90128 Palermo, Italy.
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Journal ID (nlm-ta): Zookeys
Journal ID (iso-abbrev): Zookeys
Journal ID (publisher-id): ZooKeys
ISSN: 1313-2989
ISSN: 1313-2970
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Antonino Cusumano, Jorge M. González, Stefano Colazza, S. Bradleigh Vinson
Received Day: 26 Month: 1 Year: 2012
Accepted Day: 26 Month: 3 Year: 2012
collection publication date: Year: 2012
Electronic publication date: Day: 6 Month: 4 Year: 2012
Issue: 181
First Page: 45 Last Page: 51
ID: 3332020
PubMed Id: 22539910
DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.181.2752

First report of Melittobia australica Girault in Europe and new record of M. acasta (Walker) for Italy
Antonino Cusumano1
Jorge M. González2
Stefano Colazza1
S. Bradleigh Vinson2
1Dipartimento DEMETRA, Universitá degli Studi di Palermo, Viale delle scienze, 90128 Palermo, Italy
2Texas A & M University, Department of Entomology, College Station, Texas 77843-2475, USA
Correspondence: Corresponding author: Jorge M. González (
[edited-by] Academic editor: N. Johnson


[taxon-name: Melittobia] Westwood is a cosmopolitan genus of gregarious ectoparasitoids that primarily attack prepupae of aculeate [taxon-name: Hymenoptera], but are also able to parasitize a wide range of hosts from the orders [taxon-name: Coleoptera], [taxon-name: Diptera] and [taxon-name: Lepidoptera] (Dahms 1984b; González et al. 2004; Matthews et al. 2009). They are frequently associated with mud-dauber wasps ([taxon-name: Sceliphron] spp. and [taxon-name: Trypoxylon] spp.) but some species are frequently found parasitizing several bee species (i.e. [taxon-name: Anthidium], [taxon-name: Anthophora], [taxon-name: Apis], [taxon-name: Bombus], [taxon-name: Ceratina], [taxon-name: Chalicodoma], [taxon-name: Heriades], [taxon-name: Megachile], [taxon-name: Osmia], [taxon-name: Psythirus], [taxon-name: Stelis]) (González and Terán 1996; González et al. 2004; Maeta 1978; Matthews et al. 2009).

Twelve species are known in the genus (Matthews and González 2008; Matthews et al. 2009). All [taxon-name: Melittobia] species exhibit extreme intrasexual and intersexual polymorphism, where males are blind, and brachypterous, and have highly modified antennae. Females are either brachypterous, and emerge from the pupae containing a large batch of eggs and are ready to mate, or macropterous, and capable of greater dispersal (Cusumano et al. 2010; González and Matthews 2008; Matthews and González 2008; Matthews et al. 2009; Schmieder 1933). Of these, [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta] (Walker), has been known as the only Eurasian species of [taxon-name: Melittobia] but it occurs widely in other regions of the world (Summarized by González et al. 2004). It has been reported as a dangerous threat to honeybees and/or solitary bees used as crop pollinators (See González and Matthews 2005).

[taxon-name: Melittobia australica] Girault, was described on the basis of three males and ten females that emerged from [taxon-name: Pison spinolae] Shuckard ([taxon-name: Hymenoptera]: [taxon-name: Sphecidae]) (Girault 1912). This parasitoid is a nearly cosmopolitan species that has been reported from Australia and New Zealand, several countries of Africa, Asia, North, Central and South America, including a few Caribbean islands/countries (Assem et al. 1982; Dahms 1984a; González and Matthews 2005; González and Terán 1996; González et al. 2008; Maeta 1978).

Here we confirm the presence of two [taxon-name: Melittobia] species ([taxon-name: Melittobia australica] and [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta]) in Italy and provide the first record of [taxon-name: Melittobia australica] from Europe.

Materials and methods

Collections of trap nests and mud dauber nests were carried out during 2010 in western Sicily. Trap nests were built by pooling together about 10 pieces (Ø=2-3 cm; length=20 cm) of reed ([taxon-name: Arundo donax] L.) that were hung on trees located both in cultivated and uncultivated fields. Nests of mud dauber wasps were collected mainly from external walls of buildings especially in areas close to water sources.

A number of [taxon-name: Melittobia] wasps emerged from trap nests colonized by [taxon-name: Osmia] bees originally placed in the Palermo University campus ([dwc:verbatimCoordinates: 38°06’26”N,13°21’07”E]). The collected parasitoids were mounted and later identified.

One of several mud dauber nests constructed by [taxon-name: Sceliphron spirifex] L. ([taxon-name: Hymenoptera]: [taxon-name: Sphecidae]) collected in the town of Contessa [taxon-name: Entellina] (province of Palermo) ([dwc:verbatimCoordinates: 37°44'23"N, 13°08'27"E]), had a cell containing a prepupae of its host parasitized with [taxon-name: Melittobia] wasps. Some were collected and placed on calliphorid pupae ([taxon-name: Calliphora] sp., [taxon-name: Diptera]: [taxon-name: Calliphoridae]) to be reared, while the rest were studied and identified. The parasitoids that emerged from these cultures were studied, identified and counted (Table 1).

A thorough review of literature was done in order to corroborate that the identified species indeed constituted a new record for the country. We were unable to review other insect collections besides the one at Universitá degli Studi di Palermo, and that of an amateur entomologist in Palermo. Voucher specimens of both parasitoid species and the hosts are deposited at the TAMU insect collection, College Station, Texas, USA and at Palermo University, Palermo, Sicily, Italy.

Results and discussion

Four males and 63 macropterous females of [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta] were collected (and mounted) from a cell of [taxon-name: Osmia] sp. inside a trap nest.

A total of one male and 376 females of [taxon-name: Melittobia australica] emerged from a [taxon-name: Sceliphron spirifex] prepupa. It is worth noting that the factitious host [taxon-name: Calliphora] pupae appear to be highly nutritious and large allowing the development of brachypterous females (Table 1). From six cultures established using [taxon-name: Calliphora] pupae (four females/fly pupae) as hosts, fifteen males of [taxon-name: Melittobia australica], as well as six brachypterous females, 201 macropterous females and 305 pupae/larvae emerged (see Table 1).

The easiest way to separate [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta] and [taxon-name: Melittobia australica] is by examining male specimens under a magnifying glass (10×–20×) or a microscope. Males of [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta] are 1.3–1.5 mm long, light brown or amber in color (Figure 1a); antennal scape has a cup-shaped depression, the distal region of the scape is strongly oblique with a broad excavation (Figure 2a) (Dahms 1984a; González and Terán 1996). Males of [taxon-name: Melittobia australica] are 1.1–1.3 mm long, light amber in color and have an antennal scape with a deep ventral longitudinal groove (Figures 1b, 2b) (Dahms 1984a; González and Terán 1996). In order to identify species using females we recommend following Dahms (1984a).

Even though the North American species [taxon-name: Melittobia chalybii] Ashmead was once mentioned in an European country (Denmark) by Holm (1960), it was later clarified that the species was actually [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta] (Holm and Skou 1972; González and Matthews 2005). Otherwise, all reports we had been able to find of the presence of [taxon-name: Melittobia] in European countries, indicate that the species found was always [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta] (González and Matthews 2005; González et al. 2004). Thus it was not surprising that the first [taxon-name: Melittobia] we encountered in Sicily was [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta]. Since the species was encountered in Palermo, a major port-city in the island, we might suspect that the species found its way to Sicily through the many ships that come from many lands to this place. Since [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta] is widely distributed in Europe and Asia, we might even speculate that its invasion of Sicily could have occurred centuries ago.

Even though [taxon-name: Melittobia australica] is a nearly cosmopolitan species, it has never been reported from Europe until now. The finding of this species in the town of Contessa Entellina, located about 80-90 km from the port of Palermo raises an interesting question: how long has it been in Sicily? Since the place where we found [taxon-name: Melittobia australica] in Sicily is in the interior of the island, we might suspect that the species is widely distributed on the island. It is important to note that several species of bees and wasps known from Sicily (Incalterra et al. 2003; Rasmont et al. 2008; Schmid-Egger 2003) are suitable hosts for both [taxon-name: Melittobia] wasps found, helping them to easily establish on the island.


We would like to thank Angela Sinacori (Universitá degli Studi di Palermo, Sicily, Italy) who kindly gave us useful suggestions about collecting [taxon-name: Osmia] bees and their parasitoids by using trap nests. Thanks also to Carlo Polidori (Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Spain) for identification of [taxon-name: Sceliphron spirifex]. We are also indebted to Freder Medina for the SEM photographs of the antennae of both [taxon-name: Melittobia] species that appear in Figure 2. We greatly appreciate the thoughtful comments and suggestions given by Bob Matthews, and an anonymous reviewer, which greatly improved the submitted manuscript.

Assem J van den,Bosch HAJ in den,Prooy E. (Year: 1982)Melittobia courtship behaviour: A comparative study of the evolution of a display.Netherlands Journal of Zoology 32 (4): 427-471 doi: 10.1163/002829682X00184
Cusumano A,González JM,Colazza S,Vinson SB. (Year: 2010) Behavioral responses of the parasitoid Melittobia digitata to volatiles emitted by its natural and laboratory hosts.Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 136: 301-307
Dahms EC. (Year: 1984a) Revision of the genus Melittobia (Chalcidoidea: Eulophidae) with the description of seven new species.Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 21 (2): 271-336
Dahms EC. (Year: 1984b) A review of the biology of species in the genus Melittobia (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) with interpretations and additions using observations on Melittobia australica.Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 21 (2): 337-360
González JM,Matthews RW. (Year: 2005) An annotated bibliography of Melittobia (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae).Caribbean Journal of Science, Special Publication 8: 1-41
González JM,Matthews RW. (Year: 2008) Female and male polymorphism in two species of Melittobia parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae).Florida Entomologist 91 (2): 162-169 doi: 10.1653/0015-4040(2008)91[162:FAMPIT]2.0.CO;2
González JM,Terán JB. (Year: 1996) Parasitoides del género Melittobia Westwood (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) en Venezuela. Distribución y hospederos.Boletín de Entomología Venezolana (N.S.) 11 (2): 139-147
González JM,Matthews RW,Vinson SB. (Year: 2008) Distribution and host records of Melittobia (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) from Mexico.Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 79: 529-531
González JM,Terán JB,Matthews RW. (Year: 2004) Review of the biology of Melittobia acasta (Walker) (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae).Caribbean Journal of Science 40 (1): 52-61
Holm SN. (Year: 1960) Experiments on the domestication of humble bees (Bombus Latr.), in particular B. lapidarius and B. terrestris L.Royal Veterinary and Agricultural College of Copenhagen, Yearbook 1960: 1-19
Holm SN,Skou JP. (Year: 1972) Studies on trapping, nesting, and rearing of some Megachile species (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae) and on their parasites in Denmark.Entomologica Scandinavica 3 (3): 169-180 doi: 10.1163/187631272X00274
Incalterra G,Iapichino G,D’Anna F,Sinacori A. (Year: 2003) Influences of different pollinators on winter melon Brown under polyethylene tunnel.Acta Horticulturae 614: 297-299
Maeta Y. (Year: 1978) A preliminary study on the physical control of Melittobia acasta (Walker) by cold treatment (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae).Bulletin of the Tohoku National Agriculture Experiment Station 58: 211-229
Matthews RW,González JM. (Year: 2008) The acasta conumdrum: polymorphism and taxonomic confusion within the parasitoid genus Melittobia (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae).Zootaxa 1854: 45-54
Matthews RW,González JM,Matthews JR,Deyrup LD. (Year: 2009) Biology of the parasitoid Melittobia (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae).Annual Review of Entomology 54: 251-266 doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.54.110807.090440
Rasmont P,Coppée A,Michez D,Meulemeester T de. (Year: 2008) An overview of the Bombus terrestris (L. 1758) subspecies (Hymenoptera: Apidae).Annales de la Société Entomologique de France (nouvelle série) 44 (1): 243-250
Schmid-Egger C. (Year: 2003) New records of “Sphecidae” (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae & Crabronidae) from Sicily (Italy) and Malta.Linzer Biologische Beiträge 35 (2): 747-762
Schmieder RG. (Year: 1933) The polymorphic forms of Melittobia chalybii Ashmead and the determining factors involved in their production (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea, Eulophidae).Biological Bulletin of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole 65: 338-352 doi: 10.2307/1537183


[Figure ID: F1]
Figure 1. 

Males of [taxon-name: Melittobia] parasitoid wasps: a[taxon-name: Melittobia acasta]b[taxon-name: Melittobia australica]. Scale: 0.5 mm

[Figure ID: F2]
Figure 2. 

Male antennae of [taxon-name: Melittobia acasta]a and [taxon-name: Melittobia australica]b. Scale: 0.25 mm.

[TableWrap ID: T1] Table 1. 

[taxon-name: Melittobia australica] Girault emerged from six pupae of [taxon-name: Calliphora] sp., under laboratory conditions (25°C; 75% RH) at Dipartimento DEMETRA, Universitá degli Studi di Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Host number Males Brachypterous females Macropterous females Larvae/Pupae*
1 3 1 60 20
2 2 3 45 28
3 2 1 11 82
4 1 0 5 89
5 4 0 12 68
6 3 1 68 18
Total 15 6 201 305
Mean 2.5 1 33.5 50.83

* These larvae/pupae died during development.

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Keywords: Keywords  Parasitoid wasp, [taxon-name: Sceliphron spirifex], [taxon-name: Osmia] sp., Sicily, Europe.

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