Hornworm Parasitic Wasp (Cotesia congregata) needs to be categorized as a complex

On occasion a single species will represent a whole group of lesser known or harder to distinguish species. Apparantly Cotesia congregata designated as Hornworm Parasitic Wasp already serves this role for all the Cotesia species that parasitize Sphinx caterpillars (although unacknowledged as yet). Until the cocoons hatch out the tiny wasps it is impossible to verify the exact species of Cotesia, but we can know the host caterpillar ID. At the moment, the only truly accurate choice is to bump it back to the genus Cotesia which ignores the knowledge we have of the host caterpillar’s identity. The genus Cotesia has an even wider variety of hosts and wide variety of cocoon styles to choose from (clustered, individual, white or yellow, on top or underneath or beside or around the caterpillar). By creating a Cotesia complex for Sphingidae we would be able to have a category at research level. A complex for this would narrow down the choice without sacrificing accuracy.
Also White Butterfly Parasite Wasp (Cotesia glomerata) needs to be turned into a complex. Fewer species are involved but still this designation is used to represent multiple lesser known species. And I should also mention Saddleback Caterpillar Wasp (Cotesia empretiae). These are the three culprits of ID inaccuracy I’ve found so far.
Please check out my project https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/bus-passengers-parasitoids-on-or-in-caterpillars. Thanks for your help!

1 Like

Best to use flags to discuss specific species/groups. I copied your comment here: https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/473971

thanks for raising the issue!

3 Likes