A new insect species that may help control an agricultural pest has been described and named as Leiophron argentinensis by Scott Shaw, professor of entomology in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Wyoming,

A team of scientists from the United States and Argentina discovered the species, which may help control Lygus bugs, a menace to crops throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Shaw, an international expert on the parasitic wasp family Braconidae, was asked to characterize and name the new species. "Despite the great economic importance of Braconidae, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not presently employ a taxonomic authority on this beneficial wasp group," he notes, "so I get called upon to collaborate on such projects from time to time."

A microscopic wasp, Leiophron argentinensis was found in Argentina and Paraguay by Livy Williams of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Mississippi and Guillermo Logarzo of the service's South American Biological Control Laboratory in Argentina.

Shaw and his colleagues outlined their findings in a recent issue of the science journal Annals of the Entomological Society of America in an article titled "Leiophron argentinensis Shaw: A New Species of Parasitoid from Argentina and Paraguay--Information on Life History and Potential for Controlling Lugus Bugs."

Lygus bugs attack crops such as alfalfa, beans, canola, celery, cotton, lettuce and strawberries and have been held in check by applications of broad-spectrum chemical insecticides. In their paper, the scientists estimate that "an effective biological control agent for the Lygus species could save more than $1 billion annually as well as substantially reducing the insecticide load on the environment."

The tiny wasps are about 2 millimeters long when fully grown. The female wasp can sting a Lygus bug and inject an egg into it. The wasp egg hatches into a small white larva that feeds internally and eventually kills the bug. After devouring the bug's internal organs, the wasp larva emerges, spins a silk cocoon and develops into another adult wasp.

The scientists predict that Leiophron argentinensis has the potential to be used as an effective biological control agent for these pests in the United States.

Shaw, who serves as curator of the UW Insect Museum in the College of Agriculture, has described and named more than 100 new insect species from 26 different countries. The author of more than 72 scientific publications, Shaw has also been honored by having seven wasp species named after him.

The latest one, called Triaspis shawi, is a Costa Rican wasp discovered recently by agricultural researcher Victor Martinez of Mexico.

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