Wonderful world of wasp’s

  • Posted: Aug 23, 2011

Witness the ‘Wonderful world of wasp's

Iziko South African Museum, opening 27 August 2011

Close-up of the cuticle of the Splendid Cuckoo wasp,Chrysis splendens(Chrysididae)

A presentation by Iziko Museums, Curator of Entomology, Dr. Simon Van Noort, will precede the opening of the exhibition, ‘Wonderful world of wasps’ at the Iziko South African Museum on 27 August 2011. The exhibition, based on his research, includes over 100 photographs illustrating the spectacular diversity of form, colour and biology present in this group of ecologically and economically important insects. It specifically explores the WOW factor of colours and structures, viewed at a macro scale and showcases the diversity of wasps from both a structural and biological perspective.

The species—rich insect group Hymenoptera, which includes wasps, ants and bees, encompasses a vast range of lifestyles from primitive plant feeding species to parasitoids and predators. The 6000 or so South African species play valuable roles in all ecosystems, providing important pollination services, controlling insect populations, and recycling nutrients. As pollinators, wasps and bees play a critical role in the functioning of any ecosystem, including the maintenance and evolution of floral species richness. Many have the potential to play a valuable role as indicator species in conservation and ecological monitoring.

Wasps are super diverse with almost 20 000 species described from Africa alone, but hundreds of thousands of species still await discovery. Parasitoid wasps play a vital ecological role as natural controllers of insect populations, including those that are detrimental to agriculture, forestry, human and animal health, and have vast potential for use in managed bio-control programmes. However, only an estimated 5¬¬–20% of the species are known to science. To manage and conserve these insects an inventory of the species currently present in our ecosystems is a prerequisite to understanding the role that they play in the ecological processes. Research at museums centers on the discovery and description of new species.

The Entovision system used to produce many of the close-up images on display used a process where a number of images were taken at different focal planes through the depth of the insect. These are combined into a single in-focus image by a computer algorithm, resulting in a fully focused, high magnification photograph of the specimen.

A Paper wasp(Belonogaster species) - head frontal

Three intricate ecological interactions are featured in detail. Wild fig trees rely specifically on tiny fig wasps for pollination. Fig trees are keystone species in tropical ecosystems, with many animals dependant on the figs for their own survival. Without the pollinating wasps the trees could not reproduce, making these tiny insects a vital component of complex ecosystems. Africa’s only maritime wasp parasitises intertidal spider eggs and has adapted to a regular dunking at every high tide. And if you have ever wondered what those growths on Wild Currant and Karee Trees are, all is explained - plant modifying gall wasps with their associated suite of parasitic wasps are responsible.

END

EDITOR’S NOTES

Iziko Museums (Iziko) operates 12 national museums in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections which reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation which brings together these 12 museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, as well as unlimited free access to individuals aged 18 and under (excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium).

COMMEMORATIVE DAYS – FREE ENTRANCE (excluding Iziko Planetarium and Castle of Good Hope)

  • Human Rights Day: 21 March
  • Freedom Day: 27 April
  • International Museum Day: 25 May
  • Africa Day: 25 May
  • Youth Day: 16 June
  • National Women’s Day: 9 August
  • Heritage Week: 19 – 25 September
  • National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
  • Day of Reconciliation: 16 December


Issued by: Melody Kleinsmith
Communications Coordinator: Institutional Advancement, Iziko Museums
Telephone +27 (0) 21 481 3861
Facsimile +27 (0) 21 481 9620
Cell 073 107 4955
E-mail mkleinsmith@iziko.org.za
Website http://www.iziko.org.za

On behalf of:   Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums


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