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A series authored by C. Jiahua and colleagues
Part I. 1994. China Agriculture Press, 218 pages
Part II-VII, IX, 2000 (230 pages), 2001 (273 pages), 2003 (328 pages), 2004 (354 pages), 2004 (274 pages), 2005 (269 pages), 2006 (304 pages). Fujian Science and Technology Publishing House, China
Part VIII, 2006. Fauna Sinica Insecta Vol. 46. Science Press Beijing, China (333 pages)
Despite their importance as natural enemies and potential as biological control agents, parasitic wasps of the family Braconidae (Hymenoptera) remain one of the poorest known groups of animals in many parts of the world. Most species remain undescribed, species-level identification keys are not available for most genera, and their biology is almost entirely unknown, with the exception of a few of species. It will take the devotion of many lifetimes of work before our understanding of the diversity of this family approaches that of other more popular organisms. However, one such lifetime of work from Professor Chen Jiahua from Fujian Agricultural University and colleagues is now available.
Their Taxonomic Treatment of Braconidae is a massive eight-volume species-level revision of the Braconidae of China published through China Agriculture Press and Fujian Science and Technology Publishing House. Their treatment covers a diverse set of subfamilies: Alyssinae (Part I, coauthored with Wu Zhishan), Meteorinae (Part II, with Wu Zhishan), Aphidiinae (Part III, with Shi Quanxiu), Cheloninae (Part IV, with Ji Qinge), Microgasterinae (Part V, with Song Dongbao), Doryctinae (Part VI, with Shi Quanxiu), Opiinae (Part VII, with Weng Ruiquan), and Agathidinae (with Yang Jianquan). The authors cover 113 genera and 1,017 species in these subfamilies collected in China, including nine genera and 299 species new to science, 142 species new to China, and 48 new combinations and synonymies.
Although the books are written in Chinese, each volume thoughtfully includes an excellent English summary that includes an introduction, translation of identification keys to genera and species, species diagnoses, material examined, host records, and etymology. The volume on Agathidinae also includes complete English descriptions of new taxa. Each volume also includes several hundred fine-scale photographs (scanning electron micrographs) and illustrations of new taxa. English translations are nearly perfect and the identification keys work well. However, the morphology section is not translated and the English keys do not refer directly to figures so a reader also will need an understanding of hymenopteran morphology or an accompanying work on morphology. The books also include extensive bibliographies, which are largely in English and cover many Chinese papers that are difficult to access through western language interfaces. All hymenopterists whose studies include any of these subfamilies will want these books in their library.
Although it may at first sound of interest only to hymenopterists, the books are also worth examination by a wider audience of both biologists and agricultural researchers. Chen Jiahua and colleagues' work is a wonderful example of how our knowledge of biodiversity can be rapidly and vastly improved for an area when resources are available for traditional taxonomic efforts. In the face of the current world biodiversity crisis, it is encouraging to see such progress. The books provide a good model for scientists organizing systematic and biodiversity research programs not only on parasitic wasps but also other poorly known groups of insects anywhere in the world.
These types of systematic studies, especially for natural enemies such parasitic wasps, are a critical first step necessary to take advantage of these organisms as biological control agents. There is an ever-increasing need to reduce the amount of chemicals used in agriculture for the control of pest insects due to public concern and environmental stewardship. Parasitic wasps are one of the tools available to farmers for this transition. These books have made it much easier to identify >1,000 species of these wasps in China and have opened the doors for future research on these animals. This single work brings our knowledge of these eight subfamilies of Braconidae in China directly into the 21st century. I recommend that all hymenopterists as well as anyone working on biodiversity or systematic projects or proposals consider examining these books.
Jason W. Leathers
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
Annals of Entomological Society of America
Vol. 101, No. 3, May 2008