This paper presents an eco-taxonomic study of the Neotropical representatives of the Thyreodon genus-group (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) present in Costa Rica, i.e. species of the genera Thyreodon and Rhynchophion. These ichneumonids are koinobiont endoparasitoids of the larvae of Sphingidae and Saturniidae. Intensive sampling in Costa Rica, conducted over 15 years, has revealed the presence of 23 species (12 of which are described here as new –Rhynchophion woodi, Thyreodon woodleyi, T. papei, T. whitfieldi, T. deansi, T. walkerae, T. sharkeyi, T. zitaniae, T. delvarei, T. schauffi, T. darlingi and T. carmeani), whereas earlier studies recognized only nine species in the same area. Several of the additional species we found are simply very scarce and thus unlikely to be encountered except by the type of intensive survey that, in the tropics, has only been conducted in Costa Rica. In some other cases, it has become apparent that more than one species has previously been confused under a single name. Thyreodon rufothorax Cameron is shown to be morphologically and biologically distinct from T. atriventris (Cresson), with which it has long been synonymized, and the relatively well-known, chromatically distinctive species ‘T. laticinctus Cresson’ and ‘T. morosus Smith’ are both shown to be complexes of sibling species. Reared series have been essential in facilitating the separation of the species in these complexes. An illustrated key is provided to separate all taxa using simple morphological characters. Fourteen of the 23 species have been reared, and all have been found to be restricted to one or a few species of hosts, species of Thyreodon primarily on macroglossine Sphingidae (with one species on Saturniidae) and species of Rhynchophion on sphingine sphingids of the genus Manduca. No two species of these ichneumonids attack the same host caterpillar species, and not all species of macroglossines present in the study area are attacked by species in this genus-group. Most species are apparently rather rare. Many have only been collected by rearing on a few occasions, other species have been collected at light (six in total) or in Malaise traps (ten in total), or by hand-netting (20 in total), but no one method collected all of the species present in the principal study area, the Area Conservacion de Guanacaste. The two New World genera Rhynchophion and Thyreodon are found to be related to the Old World genera Dictyonotus and Euryophion, the former of which comprises species that are also sphingid parasitoids, whereas species of the latter attack the caterpillars of other large bombycoid moths, Saturniidae and Eupterotidae. A cladistic analysis shows that Thyreodon is the sister-lineage to Dictyonotus, and Euryophion is the most basal lineage in the genus-group. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 141, 297–351.