The term parasitic wasp refers to a large, artificial assemblage of Hymenopteran superfamilies which are primarily parasitoids of other animals, mostly other arthropods. Many of them, such as the family Braconidae, are considered beneficial because they control populations of agricultural pests.
Use of the term
Historically, the classification system of Hymenoptera included two divisions within the suborder Apocrita: one of these, the Parasitica, is (or should effectively be considered) synonymous with "parasitic wasp". However, the use of the name Parasitica (or its alternative, Terebrantia) has been phased out in recent years, as it is a paraphyletic grouping, and most modern classifications explicitly reject the use of any groups that are not monophyletic.
The traditional superfamilies in the "Parasitica" are:
- Superfamily Ceraphronoidea
- Superfamily Chalcidoidea
- Superfamily Cynipoidea
- Superfamily Evanioidea
- Superfamily Ichneumonoidea
- Superfamily Megalyroidea
- Superfamily Mymarommatoidea - (sometimes called Serphitoidea)
- Superfamily Platygastroidea
- Superfamily Proctotrupoidea
- Superfamily Stephanoidea
- Superfamily Trigonaloidea
Outside of the Parasitica proper, there are a few other groups that could be included in this general category; most of the members of the superfamily Chrysidoidea, and most of the families in the superfamily Vespoidea such as Bradynobaenidae, Mutillidae, Rhopalosomatidae, Sapygidae, Scoliidae, Sierolomorphidae, Tiphiidae, and a few species of Pompilidae. Most of these groups are ectoparasitoids. There is only one small parasitic family, Orussidae, among the Symphyta.
- Parasitic Wasp at Texas Cooperative Extension. Reprinted from Drees, Bastiaan M. and John A. Jackman. A Field Guide to Common Texas Insects. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company, 1999. ISBN 0877192634.