Our project deals with salvaging the world's largest collection of Aphytis Howard (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea: Aphelinidae), important parasitoids of armored scales (Diaspididae). Specimens unfortunately were placed in a temporary mountant and now are imperiled. The importance of Aphytis for applied and basic studies is unmatched among microhymenoptera (Rosen and DeBach 1979, Rosen 1994). The University of California, Riverside (UCR) collection contains more than 30,000 slide-mounted specimens identified to 87 valid species (Table 3), including 41 primary types (excluding primary type material of 56 species on permanent loan to USNM) and about 1,500 paratype specimens. This collection consists almost entirely of material reared by some of the foremost researchers in biological control (Compere, DeBach, Rosen, H. Smith, Timberlake, etc.), and represents more than 70 years of collecting from 73 countries around the world.
Similar collections could not be made again for both monetary and political reasons. The existing slides are undergoing severe degradation and the entire collection could of been lost if immediate action was not taken. Aphelinidae are cosmopolitan in distribution and occur in all terrestrial habitats. With a body length ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 mm, these wasps are solitary or gregarious, endophagous or ectophagous koinobionts. Aphytis develop exclusively as primary ectoparasitoids of armored scale insects (Homoptera: Diaspididae). Many species of Aphytis have figured prominently in biological control programs directed against injurious armored scale pests on citrus, olive, figs, coconut and other economically important tree crops. Also, projects involving Aphytis have contributed greatly to the science and practice of biological control (Rosen 1994). Much information about the morphology, biology, ecology, systematics and utilization of Aphytis was presented in a 1979 monograph entitled "Species of Aphytis of the World" by David Rosen and Paul DeBach. The considerable advances in Aphytis research were later summarized by Rosen and others (1994) in a book based on the symposium entitled "Advances in the Study of Aphytis (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae)", convened on June 30, 1992, under the auspices of the XIX International Congress of Entomology at Beijing, China.