Austroascogaster kittelae

It happened, a wasp has been named after me! My friend and colleague Yves Braet has named this wasp from Papua New Guinea after me. This is also great in another way as well: the species belongs to the genus Austroascogaster, a genus I have described in 2013. Back then, I had specimens from Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Yves Braet has found -apart from A. kittelae – another 8 species in PNG. Awesome!

The publication is available here: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/I/bo26556745.html

 

Manual of the New World genera of the family Braconidae (Hymenoptera)

About 20 years ago, the International Society of Hymenopterists (ISH) has published a book called “Manual of the New World genera of the family Braconidae (Hymenoptera)”. It contains keys to all braconid genera in the New World. Clearly a much needed book as it has been out of print for many years now. But this will change!

As the archivist of ISH, I am not only responsible to store and archive the documents of ISH, but also to gather the published material of ISH. I obtained information on how and where to publish a second edition of the Manual of the New World genera. Together with Mike Sharkey I am currently formatting and editing the book so that it can be published soon again. Stay tuned!

Current project

I realised I wrote this blog text a few months ago, but never actually posted it. Although I am not in Japan anymore, this continues to be my current project. So here it is:

I am more than 1.5 years in Japan now and realised and I haven’t told you what my project is about.

Well, have you seen my publication doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2016.05.016 (Molecular and morphological phylogenetics of chelonine parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), with a critical assessment of divergence time estimations)? Same same but different.

Obviously, I don’t do another phylogenetic analysis of the same subfamily again. I switched the braconid subfamily from Cheloninae to Braconinae. Here, I focus on the genus Bracon. In the past the genus has appeared multiple times on trees in phylogenetic analyses, thus, various genera rendering the genus polyphyletic. So I am looking at the relationship the genus has with other genera (most importantly with Habrobracon) and whether the genus should be split into several new genera. This is even trickier than my beloved Cheloninae, because the subfamily Braconinae has 1.5 times as many species as the Cheloninae (2000 species to 1400 species), but 10 times as many genera (185 genera to 18 genera)! I am looking at a whole new set of morphological characters and they are so variable within the subfamily!

This will be the framework of my next research step: the wasp-host interactions, the host switches and the morphological adaptations to the host. The begin of a very long (research) story to come…

 

Museum Wiesbaden

What a great timing! The Museum Wiesbaden is opening up a temporary exhibition about the soil soon. It is an interactive exhibition and the museum was looking for staff (“soil experts”, not  museum attendants) to give a better understanding of the objects to the visitors. I got one of those positions due to my experience and knowledge. Yeah! I am looking forward to work there. For one, because it appears to be an interesting exhibition. Also because it is a multidisciplinary museum. I do like natural history museums. A lot! But multidisciplinary museums usually give a much better and thorough understanding of a topic (like “my” butterfly exhibition back in the day). Anyhow, the soil exhibition will cover the disciplines of archaeology, biology and arts.

 

This work also gives me enough time to continue my work on braconine wasp. A classic win-win situation for everybody!

Returnee

A few people know already, but I haven’t mentioned it here yet: I returned from Japan a few weeks ago and now I live again in Germany – in a smallish and nice city called Mainz.

The weeks were busy with moving my personal stuff as well as my scientific material. I then attended the ICE conference in Orlando, were my flight back to Germany was delayed due to the hurricane Matthew. Luckily, an alternative flight was scheduled and I returned safely back to Germany once more.

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The museum am Loewentor was the venue for the German Hymenopterists meeting.

 

I was in Stuttgart last weekend to attend the meeting of the (German speaking) Hymenopterists. An interesting meeting in which one (the?) oldest dispiction of wasps in a temple setting was presented. Anyhow, I realised soon during the meeting, that I am probably the only braconid expert in Germany at the moment. Or even central Europe. I know Julia Stigenberg who works on Euphorine in Sweden and Belokobylskij who works on Doryctinae in Russia. A few people work sparingly on other braconids, however, they are retired and reduced their research output lately. No one works currently on either Cheloninae or Braconinae in all over Europe in the areas of morphology, taxonomy, systematics or phylogenetics. Surprising, as there are 1500 described species of Cheloninae and close to 3000 described species of Braconinae.

Orlando, Florida

I am currently in Orlando, Florida attending the XXV International Congress of Entomology. It has been really great so far and I got inspired to many research projects for the years to come. Probably for the next 10 years including projects for students and even postdocs! I also had the chance to catch up with my Hymenoptera friends and colleagues from all across the world. Success in all terms and I yet have to give my talk on Habrobracon hebetor!

Insect museum in Itami

A few weeks ago I visited an insect museum in Itami, a city not far from Osaka. There are many insect museums in Japan, as the Japanese people seem to like insects a lot. One can buy many containers, nets and special insect foods to keep insects as pets (or to rear them). But it would deserve another entry to describe in detail all those insect related products I have seen in the country.

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Back to the museum. It had a large butterfly house with a variety of butterflies flying around. Nothing too special about that. But that was only part of the museum. Otherwise they not only explained what insects are and what they do, they exhibited many other live insects. They even had a room with a reverse day/night cycle so you could see many big and nocturnal beetles feeding the sap of trees.

The museum had activities for all ages, from colouring insect images and dressing like insects to petting various insects and listening to their sounds. A large room with a variety of insects of the region was showcased including wired and interesting species. IMAG5254

Highly recommended if you happen to be in the area!