New Species of Wasp Discovered at TMNP

Pycnostigmus hoerikwaggoensis named in honour of Table Mountain National Park

A new species of parasitoid wasp Pycnostigmus hoerikwaggoensis has been named in honour of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).

Its meaning is derived from the word Hoerikwaggo – meaning ‘mountain in the sea’ or ‘sea mountain’.

The wasp was named by Simon Van Noort, Curator of Entomology at the Natural History Division of Iziko South African Museums, Cape Town.

Brett Myrdal, Park Manager of the Table Mountain National Park, said he was delighted that the species had been named in honour of the park.

“The Hoerikwaggo Trails have caught the imagination of the many lovers of Table Mountain including Van Noort whose “love of small things” and his pioneering study of the insects that co-evolved with this ancient mountain will inspire young scientists to seek to discover the wonders of nature and that of the unexplored insect world in particular,” he said.

The newly described species was originally collected on the Constantiaberg in the Table Mountain National Park in 1994 as part of a project to document wasp species richness in Mesic Mountain fynbos, the dominant vegetation type on Table Mountain.

The description of this species was undertaken in collaboration with Matt Buffington of the United States Department of Agriculture, and together they described seven new species in the subfamily Pycnostigminae.

Through systematic comparison of the Table Mountain National Park wasp with the already described species in the subfamily, Van Noort realized he had discovered a new species entirely. In addition, five other species collected by Van Noort up the West Coast were also described.
Early this year the description of Pycnostigmus hoerikwaggoensis was officially recognised by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature through the publication of their revision in an international scientific journal. The holotype specimen is being kept at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town.

“The discovery was amazing, but this is not a new thing to my job,” says Van Noort.

“I am discovering and identifying new species everyday. You’d be surprised what you’d find on Table Mountain or in your own back garden. There are thousands of wasp species in TMNP that are still unknown to science, many already collected and awaiting revision.

The description of hoerikwaggoensis is really just scratching the surface. The scary thing is that we may be losing species to extinction faster than we can describe them.

“The importance of parasitoid wasps cannot be underestimated. They have a very vital role to play in the health of our ecosystems.

They’re the key factor in bio-control programs because they keep other insect populations under control and have proven economically viable in controlling pests of agriculture and forestry.

“Wasps and bees in general are also important pollinators ensuring the reproduction of Fynbos plant species. We cannot conserve a habitat effectively until we know which species we are dealing with and their role in the functioning of that particular ecosystem,” says Van Noort.

The Pycnostigmus hoerikwaggoensis can be viewed on www.waspweb.org.

Issued by HWB Communications Pty Ltd
On Behalf of Table Mountain National Park
For more information please contact:
Evelyn Holtzhausen
Tel: 021 462 0416
Cell: 082 658 6007
E-Mail: evelyn@hwb.co.za

 

 

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