Mexican Microhymenoptera: Biodiversity at El Edén

Paper (pdf file): Diversity of Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera) at El Edén Reserrve, Mexico (Heraty & Gates), Maya Symposium; January 2001.

What: This project of 5 month duration was designed to sample the biodiversity of Hymenoptera and other insect taxa using passive and active sampling techniques : malaise traps, pan traps, sweep nets and mercury vapor lights.

Funding: The UCMEXUS granting agency which is designed to foster cooperation between Mexican and University of California researchers provide the funds necessary to send two students to set up traps and conduct active sampling in August, 1998. Monies were also provided to train two Mexican students in parasitic Hymenoptera techniques: collecting, preserving, curating and identifying at a workshop at UC-Riverside. Finally, training of a local participant as a parataxonomist to continue the study to its terminus in December, 1998.

 View of the cabanas from the observation tower.


Where: The proposed work was done in the subtropical savanna of the Yucatán Peninsula at the 1,492 ha. Reserva Ecologia El Edén in Quintana Roo, Mexico. The reserve is located 25km NNE of Leona Vicario and consists of lowland, subtropical savanna, primary and secondary forest, and several lagoons in marshy areas. This area is subject to monsoon rains in the summer and is periodically inundated during the fall and winter . Temperature and relative humidity are high during the summer and more moderate in the fall and winter months.

The facilities are rustic, consisting of guest cabanas on 20' stilts, a kitchen/living structure, crew cabins, laboratory and various outbuildings built mostly from native trees. All buildings have plumbing run by a gasoline motor and electricity generated from solar panel arrays.

Our cabana at El Edén

The road leading to El Edén



Dr. John Heraty: UC-Riverside

Dr. Bob Jones: Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro

Dr. Alejandro Gonzalez: Univer. Autónoma de Nuevo Leon

Dr. Marco Lazcano: Reserva Ecologia El Edén

Michael Gates, UC-Riverside

Rodolfo R. Ramirez: Univer. Autónoma de Nuevo Leon

Jesús Luna Cozar: Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro

Daniel García Moreno: Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro

Alejandro Blanco: Reserva Ecologia El Edén


1. collect, label and process specimens of Hymenoptera and other insects in El Edén.

  1. provide an initial checklist of species and basic keys to identification of selected groups.
  2. identify as many species of other groups of insects and, where possible, make an initial checklist of selected groups for future biodiversity and ecological studies.
  3. establish sampling methodologies and study objectives for longer term research.
  4. train a local participant ("parataxonomist") in collection and preservation techniques.

6. exchange information, techniques and ideas between Mexican and US scientists and students.

7. evaluate and formulate future research needs and questions for the region.

Methods: An initial intensive collecting period in the month August, 1998 was conducted by Rodriguez and Gates. During this period, we set up passive insect sampling techniques (malaise traps, yellow pan traps and aquatic pan traps) in six microhabitats in the Reserve. All material collected in this manner was sorted and processed on a weekly basis. Sweep net collections were made daily to establish the protocol to be used by the parataxonomist and to acquire additional materials.

Once trained in all collection, preservation and labeling regimens, the parataxonomist was responsible for continuing these techniques on a half-time basis until December, 1998. Nocturnal sampling consisted of a mercury vapor light set up in different microhabitats on a rotating basis. This was fairly productive for many lepidopteran and coleopteran taxa, although species saturation was quickly reached for the easily- identified target taxa being collected (e.g. Sphingidae, Saturniidae, Scarabaeidae). By the third week few new species were being collected.

Pan trap in primary forest

Malaise trap in primary forest


Results: All of the Hymenoptera collected in August have been dehydrated and approximately 85% of that material has been mounted and labeled. Only ~40 specimens of the macro fauna remain to be spread and dried, with the rest ready for labeling. We are now focusing on sorting prepared materials to family and beginning to put generic and specific names on specimens where possible. The materials collected September - December, 1998 are being sent from El Edén to the Bob Jones lab for processing to superfamily whereupon a portion of these processed materials will be sent to the Heraty lab for final processing and curation. 

Rough estimates indicate we have collected 16 of 20 families of Chalcidoidea and several taxa in the following superfamilies: Platygaastroidea, Cynipoidea, Apoidea, Proctotrupoidea, Evanioidea, Chrysidoidea, Vespoidea, Stephanioidea, Ichneumonoidea. For the Coleoptera and Lepidoptera, we sampled at least 10 and 12 families, respectively.














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