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Logotyp för Naturhistoriska riksmuseet
Logotyp för Naturhistoriska riksmuseet

Lectotype of Diadegma velox (Holmgren, 1860). Photo: Hege Vårdal

Biodiversity of Hymenoptera

During more than a decade hymenopterists at the department of Zoology have collected and studied wasps and the main focus is the Swedish fauna. Increased knowledge about the biodiversity is more important than ever and Hymenoptera is one of the poorly known groups in which there are many species left to describe even in Sweden. We study systematics, species composition and phylogenetic relationships. In various projects we have found at least 80 new species of sawflies and parasitic wasps for the first time in Sweden and more than 20 new species of parasitic wasps to science.

Forskningsområden: Zoologi

Forskningsämnen: Insekter, Parasitologi, Svenska Artprojektet, Svenska Malaisefälleprojektet

Project overview

Project period: From 2010 onwards

Participating departments from the museum: Zoology

Hymenoptera is one of the most species rich and diverse insect groups and we still know very little about them, particularly the parasitic wasps. The hymenopterists at the museum participate in various research project which explores the taxonomy and phylogenetic relationships of wasps. We often focus on the most poorly known parasitic groups including the gall wasps and their closely related insect-parasitic groups (Cynipoidea) and various subfamilies of Braconidae and Ichneumonidae, but also sawlflies in the subfamily Nematinae (Tenthredinidae). Increasingly, molecular techniques are used in additon to morphology to understand how the species can be delimited and how they are related to each other.

Project description

We currently recognize almost 9000 species of Hymenoptera in Sweden and about 80% of these belong to the parasitic wasps living most part of their lives in or on a host animal, which is most often another insect. Many of the parasitic wasps are small and rare making them difficult to study. We still know very little about the parasitic wasps and there are still many new species to discover even in Sweden (Ronquist et al. 2020). They play an important part in the ecosystem as most insects and spiders are probably parasitized by one or more species of parasitic wasps, which to a varying degree thus control insect populations. Many parasitic wasp species are used in biological control of pests.

We have studied the wasp fauna in certain areas, for instance Stora Karlsö (Stigenberg et al. 2017) and particular habitats like the forest-tundra ecotone in Finnmark (Norway) or thin wood from clear cuts in Southern Sweden (Jonsell et al. 2023). More often we revise specific groups of wasps systematically, including Campopleginae (Ichneumonidae) (Klopfstein et al. 2022, Meier et al. 2022), Braconidae (Stigenberg et. al 2015; Stigenberg, 2017; Stigenberg et al. 2019), Cynipoidea (Costa Baião & Forshage, 2018; Forshage & Nordlander, 2018; Buffington et al. 2020) as well as the sawfly-group Nematinae (Prous et. al. 2014, 2019; Liston et al. 2017, 2018, 2019).

By comparing molecular and morphological characters in different wasp species, we can study the species composition and their relationships. Illustrated identification keys and checklists are often produced and included in the systematic studies of taxon descriptions and phylogenies. Simultaneously we are adding specimens to the Hymenoptera collection at the museum and making the collection data available online.


The research has first and foremost been supported by the Swedish Taxonomy Inititiative External link. (2012-2023).

Selected publications

Jonsell, M., Vårdal, H., Forshage, M. & Stigenberg, J. (2023). Saproxylic Hymenoptera in dead wood retained on clear cuts, relation to wood parameters and their degree of specialisation. Journal of Insect Conservation. External link.

Klopfstein, S., Broad, G.R., Urfer, K., Vårdal, H. & Haraldseide, H. (2022). An interactive key to the European genera of Campopleginae (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae) and 20 new species for Sweden. [En interaktiv nyckel till europeiska släkten av klämbaksteklar (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Campopleginae) och 20 nya arter för Sverige.] – Entomologisk Tidskrift 143: 121–156. Björnlunda, Sweden 2022. ISSN 0013-886x. 

Meier N, Urfer K, Haraldseide H, Vårdal H & Klopfstein S. (2022). Open access in a taxonomic sense: a morphological and molecular guide to Western Palaearctic Dusona (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 91: 83-183. External link.

Buffington,M.L., Forshage,M. Liljeblad, J., Tang, C.-T. & van Noort, S (2020). World Cynipoidea (Hymenoptera): A Key to Higher-Level Groups. Insect Systematics and Diversity, 4(4), July 2020, 1, External link.

Ronquist F, Forshage M, Häggqvist S, Karlsson D, Hovmöller R, Bergsten J, Holston, K., Britton, T., Abenius, J., Andersson, B., Neerup-Buhl, P., Coulianos, C.-C., Fjellberg, A., Gertsson, C.-A., Hellqvist, S. Jaschhof, M., Kjærandsen, J., Klopfstein, S., Kobro, S., Liston, A., Meier, R., Pollet, M., Riedel, M., Roháček, J., Schuppenhauer, M., Stigenberg, J., Struwe, I., Taeger, A., Ulefors, S.-O., Varga, O., Withers, P. & Gärdenfors, U. (2020) Completing Linnaeus’s inventory of the Swedish insect fauna: Only 5,000 species left? PLoS ONE 15(3): e0228561.

Stigenberg, J., Boring, C.A., Ronquist, F. (2015) Phylogeny of the parasitic wasp subfamily Euphorinae (Braconidae) and evolution of its host preferences. Systematic Entomology, 40:570–591. DOI: 10.1111/syen.12122

Prous, M., Liston, A.D., Kramp, K., Savina, H., Vårdal, H. & Taeger, A. (2019). The West Palearctic genera and North-West European species of Nematinae (Hymenoptera, Tenthredinidae). Zookeys, 875: 63-127.

Liston, A.D., Prous, M.& Vårdal, H. (2019). A review of West Palaearctic Hoplocampa species, focussing on Sweden (Hymenoptera, Tenthredinidae). Zootaxa 4615: 001-045.

Costa Baião, G. & Forshage, M. (2018) Revision of the West Palaearctic species of Rhoptromeris Förster, 1869 (Hymenoptera: Figitidae: Eucoilinae). Journal of Natural History, 52:17-18, 1201-1224, DOI: 10.1080/00222933.2018.1447154

Forshage, M. & Nordlander, G. (2018) The identity of figitid parasitoids (Hymenoptera: Cynipoidea: Figitidae) of anthomyiid flies in conifer cones. European Journal of Entomology, 115, 104–111.

Liston, A.D., Vårdal, H. & Prous, M. (2018) New and little-known sawflies (Hymenoptera, Tenthredinoidea) in the Swedish fauna, with taxonomic notes on Palearctic Heptamelus species described by Swedish authors. Entomologisk Tidskrift, 39 (2): 119-131

Vikberg, V. & Vårdal, H. (2017). Taxonomy of some European species of Mesochorus, including three new species from Finland and Sweden (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Mesochorinae). W-album, 20, 3-42.

Liston, A.D., Heibo, E., Prous, M., Vårdal, H., Nyman, T. & Vikberg, V. (2017) North European gall-inducing Euura sawflies (Hymenoptera, Tenthredinidae, Nematinae). Zootaxa, 4302; 1-115.

Stigenberg, J., Berger, J., Forshage, M., Johansson, N., Larsson, A., Lønnve, O.,Reshchikov, A., Vårdal, H. & Österblad, I. (2017). Snapshot of the Hymenopteran fauna of Stora Karlsö. Entomologisk Tidskrift. 138: 71-91.

Stigenberg, J. (2017) Review of the genus Townesilitus (Haeselbarth & Loan) in Sweden, with a molecular characterization. Entomologisk Tidskrift 138 (2): 137-150.

Forshage, M., Broad, G.R., Papilloud N.D-S, Vårdal H. (2016) Insect species described by Karl-Johan Hedqvist. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 51: 101-158. External link.

Stigenberg, J., Boring, C.A. and Ronquist, F. (2015), Phylogeny of the parasitic wasp subfamily Euphorinae (Braconidae) and evolution of its host preferences. Systematic Entomology, 40: 570-591. External link.

Project members

External participants

Project manager

Hege Vårdal




Mattias Forshage

Senior Assistant



Fredrik Ronquist



Resarch Areas: Zoology

Research Subjects: Biodiversity, Insects, Swedish Fauna, Swedish Malaise Trap Project