The effectiveness and optimal use of Malaise traps for monitoring parasitoid wasps


Dr Peter J. Mayhew, Department of Biology (Area 18), University of York, PO Box 373, York YO10 5YW, UK. E-mail:



  • 1Parasitoid wasps are species-rich and likely to be sensitive indicators of environmental change. Malaise traps are widely used for sampling certain taxa of parasitic Hymenoptera, but little is known about how they should best be used to monitor the community at an individual site.
  • 2To investigate the effects of sample duration, trap location and replication on the parasitoid assemblage, we sampled four ichneumonid subfamilies (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) intensively using Malaise traps in two farm woods in the Vale of York, UK.
  • 3Species accumulation curves showed that even with 16 Malaise traps per wood, the community is incompletely sampled. Despite this, we caught up to 28% of all UK species in a single wood, implying that local parasitoid diversity may be very high.
  • 4Abundance and species richness of parasitoids differed significantly between sample periods (fortnights) and between traps, but did not differ overall between core and edge locations.
  • 5Parasitoid community composition differed between core and edge traps, but differences were much stronger in one wood than the other. One subfamily, the Poemeniinae, was found predominantly in edge locations. Catch differences became greater with increasing distance between traps.
  • 6The previous year, two traps in each of the same woods caught only half as many species, but species abundance was positively correlated between years.
  • 7Our results suggest that a small number of traps can contain useful information about the parasitoid community but is likely to seriously underestimate total species richness. To achieve extensive species coverage, sampling should continue over several weeks, with widely separated traps sampling both core and edge locations. Our focal taxa should prove excellent for monitoring the effects of environmental change on biodiversity.