The Ichneumonoidea are insects classified in the hymenopteran suborder Apocrita. The superfamily is made up of the ichneumon wasps (often inaccurately called "ichneumon flies"; family Ichneumonidae) and the braconids (family Braconidae).
The superfamily Ichneumonoidea has been estimated to contain well over 80,000 different species. They are solitary insects, and most are parasitoids—the larvae feeding on or in another insect which finally dies. As with all hymenopterans, ichneumons are closely related to ants and bees.
Some species use many different insects as a host, others are very specific in host choice. Various ichneumons are used successfully as biological control agents in controlling pests such as flies or beetles.
Jennifer Owen spent 30 years surveying insects in her garden in Leicester. She identified 1602 species of which 529 were ichneumons. They were the most common group of insects in the garden – more common than beetles or bees or flies. Of these 529 species, 15 were new to Britain and 4 completely new to science. Later she added a further 74 species.
The Biodiversity of Urban Gardens (BUGS) project in Sheffield, which finished in 2002, also found that the ichneumonidae were the most common group of insects.
A print of an ichneumon by Edward Donovan. Edward Donovan (1768–1837) was an Anglo Irish writer, natural history illustrator and amateur zoologist.
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