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Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia

Print version ISSN 0031-1049

Pap. Avulsos Zool. (São Paulo) vol.52 no.35 São Paulo  2012 

Richness of hymenopterous galls from South America



Valéria Cid Maia 

Museu Nacional, Departamento de Entomologia, Quinta da Boa Vista, São Cristóvão, CEP 20940‑040, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil. E‑mail:




An overview of hymenopterous galls from South America is presented here based on literature as well as on data from the insect gall collection of the Museu Nacional/UFRJ. Seventy-three galls have been recorded on 71 host plants. Myrtaceae and Fabaceae are the plant families with the greatest number of galled species and gall morphotypes. Gall richness per plant species varied from one to two. The stem and bud were the most galled plant organs. The gallers comprise eight hymenopteran families, the best-represented being Eulophidae, Eurytomidae, and Cynipidae. Geographic records are restricted to six countries, and the majority is from Brazil.

Key-Words: Diversity; Geographical distribution; Insect plant interaction.


Uma abordagem geral de galhas de himenópteros da América do Sul é apresentada aqui com base na literatura e na coleção de galhas de insetos do Museu Nacional/UFRJ. Setenta e três galhas estão registradas em 71 espécies de plantas hospedeiras. Myrtaceae e Fabaceae são as famílias de planta com maior número de espécies hospedeiras e de morfotipos de galhas. A riqueza de galhas por espécie botânica variou de um a dois. Caule e gema foram os órgãos da planta mais atacados. Os galhadores compreendem oito famílias de Hymenoptera, tendo Eulophidae, Eurytomidae, e Cynipidae maior representatividade. Os registros geográficos estão restritos a seis países, sendo a maioria do Brasil.

Palavras-Chave: Diversidade; Distribuição geográfica; Interação inseto-planta.




Galls are predictable and consistent plant deformations that occur in response to feeding or other stimuli by foreign organisms (Gagné, 1994). The gall formation is characterized by abnormal growth of plant tissues by cell hypertrophy and hyperplasia (Price, 2005). Insect galls are considered the most sophisticated herbivore interactions of nature (Shorthouse et al., 2005). Galling insects have the ability to manipulate the development of plant tissue and promote its growth (Stone & Schönrogge, 2003). The development of these structures has resulted from an adaptive strategy of many insects to obtain food and even protection against predators (Stone & Schönrogge, 2003). Among the insects, Diptera, Lepidoptera, Hemiptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera and Thysanoptera include galling species (Mani, 1964).

Gall midges (Diptera, Cecidomyiidae) are the most common galling insects in all biogeographic regions (Felt, 1940). In the Neotropical region, Hemiptera are the second most diversified and frequent gallers, followed by Lepidoptera and Coleoptera, being responsible for about 135, 110 and 80 gall morphotypes (Maia, 2006 and 2012). Thysanoptera are the least frequent ones with only 14 records in the Neotropics (Maia, 2006). Hymenopteran gallers are very frequent in Europe and North America, where records of galls induced by Tenthredinidae (sawflies), Cynipidae (gall wasps), Agaonidae (fig wasps), Braconidae, Eurytomidae, Eulophidae, and others families are found (Felt, 1940; Wehrmaker, 1998; Zinovjev, 1998).

Nevertheless, little is known about the diversity of hymenopterous galls in South America, as data are scattered in several insect gall inventories. There is a single previous compilatory study, published by Houard in 1933, which includes Hymenopterous galls. This author organized a catalog of galls induced by arthropods and nematodes. But even in Houard, 1933, the information about Hymenopteran gallers is pulverized. The present work is the first attempt to gather and upgrade this information.

This paper aims to answer the following questions: (1) How many hymenopterous galls have been recorded in South America? (2) How many plant families are galled by Hymenoptera? (3) Which plant families are the most galled? (4) Is there a preference for any plant organ? (5) What is known about the taxonomy of these gallers? (6) Which hymenopteran families induce galls in this region? (7) Among them, which are the most common? and (8) What is known about the geographic distribution of these gallers?



Data on hymenopterous galls were compiled based on data from the insect galls collection of Museu Nacional/UFRJ as well as on literature. The catalog of Houard, 1933 was used as a starting point and reference to previous publications. From 1933 to 2010, the research was based on the Web of Science, focusing upon host plant, galled plant organ, galling wasp and locality. The following papers were examined: Rübsaamen (1899, 1907, 1908), Tavares (1909, 1914), Kieffer & Jörgensen (1910), Brèthes (1915, 1918, 1922), Ferriére (1924), Houard (1933), Gomes (1943), Costa-Lima (1962), Fernandes et al. (1988), Arduin et al. (1989), Monteiro et al. (1993), Kraus et al. (1998), Kraus & Tanque (1999), Gonçalves-Alvim & Fernandes (2001), Ronquist & Liljeblad (2001), DalMolin et al. (2004), Maia & Fernandes (2004), Urso-Guimarães & Scareli-Santos (2006), Gates & Delvare (2008), Ros-Farré & Pujade-Villar (2009), Penteado-Dias & Carvalho (2008), Coelho et al. (2009), Pereira (2010) and Leite et al. (2011).

The Hymenopteran species names were checked in the Universal Chalcidoidea Database (Noyes, 2011). The botanical names and authors were checked in the websites Tropicos® ( and Angiosperm Phylogeny Group III.



Seventy-three hymenopterous galls have been recorded in South America. These galls occurred on 71 plant species distributed among 21 plant families of angiosperms. No galls were recorded on gymnosperms. The great majority of the host plants (about 90%) belong to dycotiledons. Only two families of monocotyledons were galled: Araceae and Orchidaceae. Myrtaceae and Fabaceae are the plant families with the greatest number of host plant (18 and 16, respectively) and gall morphotypes (18 and 19, respectively). These two families comprise about 50% of the recoded galls (Table 1).

The gall richness per plant species varied little (from one to two). The great majority (97%) presented only one gall morphotype; the only exceptions are Prosopis alba Griseb and P. campestris Griseb (Fabaceae) with two morphotypes respectively (Table 1). The plant genera with the greatest number of galled species are Eugenia L. (Myrtaceae) (09 spp.), Erythroxylum P. Browne (Erythroxylaceae) (05 spp.) and Psidium L. (Myrtaceae) (04 spp.) (Table 1).

The galls were recorded on several plant organs, such as stem, bud, leaf, fruit, flower and aerial root. Stem and bud were the most galled plant organs (around 48%), and flower and aerial root were the least galled (around 9.4%) (Figure 1).



The taxonomy of the galling wasps is still incipient. Only 28 gallers (about 38%) are identified at species level (Tables 2 and 3). The majority of the records are in wider categories. The gallers comprise eight hymenopteran families (Agaonidae, Cynipidae, Eulophidae, Eurytomidae, Figitidae, Pteromalidae, Scelionidae, and Tanaostigmatidae), the best-represented being Eulophidae, Eurytomidae, and Cynipidae with 13, 08 and 06 species, respectively. They also comprise 14 genera: Aditrochus Rübsaamen, 1902, Chrysocharis Förster, 1856, Eurytoma Illiger, 1807, Neohyperteles De Santis, 1957, Proseurytoma Kieffer, 1910, Tanaostigma Howard, 1890, and Tetrastichus Haliday, 1844 (all represented by only one species), Minapis Brèthes, 1916, and Tanaostigmodes Ashmead, 1896 (each represented by two species), Eschatocerus Mayr, 1881, Myrtopsen Rübsaamen, 1908, Prodecatoma Ashmead, 1904, and Rileya Ashmead, 1888 (each represented by three species). Aprostocetus Westwood, 1833 the best represented genus, has five galling species in South America (Table 2).

These hymenopteran genera differ in species richness as well as in geographic distribution. Eurytoma, Aprostocetus, and Tetrastichus are very large and cosmopolitan genera, with about 700, 750 and 500 described species (Gates & Delvare, 2008; Noyes, 2011). Chrysocharis, Tanaostigmodes, Rileya, and Prodecatoma are also worldwide, but less diversified with about 140, 65, 65, and 50 known species (Hanson, 1987, Noyes, 2011). The others (Tanaostigma, Myrtopsen, Aditrochus, Minapis, Eschatocerus, Neohyperteles, and Proseurytoma) comprise few species (about 11, 09, 03, 03, 02 and 01 species, respectively), and are mainly or exclusively Neotropical genera (Noyes, 2011; Ronquist & Liljeblad, 2001; Ros-Farré & Pujade-Villar, 2009).

Regarding the families of Hymenoptera, Eulophidae are associated with 10 plant families (Araceae, Euphorbiaceae, Myrtaceae, Sapindaceae, Lauraceae, Annonaceae, Boraginaceae, Caryocaraceae, Erythroxylaceae, and Winteraceae), Araceae being the plant family with the greatest number of galled species (04), followed by Euphorbiaceae (03), Lauraceae, Myrtaceae and Sapindaceae (02 each). Only one species of the other plant families was galled. The majority of the Eulophidae galling species was monophagous. Only three were oligophagous: Chrysocharis gallicola (Costa-Lima, 1930) which induced galls on two species of Psidium L. (Myrtaceae), Aprostocetus gallicola (Ferrière, 1924) on four species of Philodendron Schott (Araceae), and A. verticillata (Brèthes, 1913) on two genera of Euphorbiaceae (Table 2). Eurytomidae are associated with four plant species: Fabaceae, Orchidaceae, Myrtaceae, and Euphorbiaceae, galling two species of each family, except Euphorbiaceae, with a single host plant (Table 2). Cynipidae are associated mainly with Fabaceae, but there is a single species associated with Anacardiaceae. Four species of Cynipidae are monophagous, and two are oligophagous, namely: Eschatocerus myriadeus Kieffer & Jörgensen, 1910, and E. niger Kieffer & Jörgensen, 1910, both inducing galls on two species of Prosopis L., (Fabaceae) (Table 2). Tanaostigmatidae are associated with two plant species: Fabaceae (three galling species) and Rhamnaceae (a single galling species). All Tanaostigmatidae gallers are monophagous, except for Tanaostigma chapadae (Ashmead, 1904), which induce galls on three genera of Fabaceae.

The South American fauna of hymenopteran gallers differ from Holarctic fauna, mainly by the absence of gall forming sawflies (Tenthredinidae) and by the higher diversity of gall-forming Eulophidae, Eurytomidae and Cynipidae. The geographic records are restricted to six countries, and the majority is from Brazil (around 68%; Figure 2), where most of the surveys have been developed.




Hymenoptera galls are less diversified in South America than in Nearctic and Palearctic regions. The gallers are represented by eight families. The most common of these are Eulophidae, Eurytomidae, and Cynipidae. There is no record of Tenthredinidae galls. Hymenopteran galls were more frequent on stems and buds. The taxonomy of the galling species is still incipient.



I am grateful to CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) for financial support (Proc. 372060/2011‑0).



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Aceito em: 23.10.2012
Publicado em: 20.12.2012

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