My research interests as senior curator at the Natural History Museum, London are taxonomy, phylogeny and ecology of parasitoid wasps of the family Ichneumonidae. I am responsible for two major groups of Hymenoptera: the Ichneumonoidea and Vespoidea (minus Formicidae, ants). The Natural History Museum houses one of the largest collections of Hymenoptera in the world with the collections of Ichneumonoidea and Vespoidea very species-rich and drawn from across the globe. My current curatorial focus is on Ichneumonoidea, but the collection of Vespoidea (particularly Polistinae, Vespinae and Eumeninae of the Vespidae) is very rich, with large numbers of types and a significant collection of wasp nests. This part of the collection will be more completely documented in the near future.
We house probably the largest single collection of Ichneumonoidea types (a little over 3,000 Braconidae and 2,700 Ichneumonidae putative primary types) and over 15,300 species (c.10,000 Ichneumonidae, 5,300 Braconidae). Other particularly significant collections of Ichneumonoidea include the Ford collection of Microgastrinae reared from Lepidoptera, North-west European ichneumonoids (particularly from Britain and Sweden) and the Costa Rican Ichneumonidae, amassed by Ian Gauld and co-workers.
We are continually increasing the collection through targeted fieldwork, through donations, exchanges and, probably most importantly, through active taxonomic work on the collections by researchers around the world. As well as the catalogued species, we have large numbers of unidentified Ichneumonoidea, usually sorted to subfamily or genus, including many undescribed species. As the collection is recurated, I am assembling basic data on the unidentified specimens and the countries represented by these, which may be of interest to taxonomists; a preliminary spreadsheet for some groups of Ichneumonidae and Braconidae can be found here.
The current emphasis is on upgrading the collection, re-housing specimens in unit trays, bringing together specimens from the old ‘accessions’ material and the main collection, and updating the collection database. The collections of Pimplinae and Netelia (both Ichneumonidae) and the cyclostome Braconidae are mid-way through recuration, involving the recognition of many species new to the collection (which includes a number of significant recent donations from researchers in various countries) and an overhaul of the layout of the collection to better reflect modern taxonomy. Other projects include an assessment of the type status of various putative braconid types and the incorporation of a large backlog of named vespoids (mainly Mutillidae, Scoliidae and Tiphiidae) in the collection. The Hymenoptera team will also be spending a good deal of time on incorporating the large Hymenoptera collection of Karl-Johan Hedqvist, recently purchased by the museum.