The Hymenoptera order is one of the largest among insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are about 180,000 labeled Hymenoptera specimens in the TAU collections. The founders and main collectors and researchers of this outstanding group were the late J. Kugler, H. Bytinsky-Salz, J. Wahrman and D. Rosen, and the still active D. Furth, D. Gerling and A. Freidberg. The collections are currently curated by Leonid Friedman (sawflies), Dan Gerling and Wolf Kuslitsky (Parasitica), Sergei Zonstein (wasps), Moshe Guershon (bees) and Armin Ionescu-Hirsh (ants).
These collections, like all the others at TAU, are intended to serve as a center of record, research and education on the variety of issues related to this special group, including taxonomy, ecology, biodiversity, plant protection and pollination. Identification services are provided for various institutions, businesses and students.
The Sawfly Collection. The Sawfly (Symphita) collection contains ca. 2,000 specimens of sawflies of 156 species in 58 genera and a small collection of ca. 200 specimens, predominantly from East Africa and the Near East. Most of the collection has been identified by D. Smith (Smithsonian). Sawflies are distributed predominantly in temperate regions, making the Israeli fauna extraordinarily large and diverse, including ca. 12 desert species.
The Parasitica Collection. The Parasitica collection is the largest in the Middle East, containing over 1,400 identified species in more than 450 genera. It includes an extensive collection of slide-mounted material representing the smaller-sized insects in the families of the Chalcidoidea, as well as about 24,000 pinned specimens belonging mainly to the Ichneumonidae and Braconidae (18,000 and 6,000 respectively). The collection represents mainly reared-out material and the pertinent host records, as well as some generally collected specimens. Approximately 20% of specimens in the Ichneumonidae family were studied, sorted and identified by J. F. Aubert (France) in the1980s, D. Kasparyan (Russia) in 2008 and by W. Kuslitzky; whereas only 3-5% of specimens are already identified for the Braconidae. Most of the collection is catalogued in the TAU database, an activity that is currently ongoing. The Parasitica collection includes material collected by university personnel both in the past and the present, especially the late J. Kugler, H. Bytinski-Salz, and Q. Argaman; and the currently active A. Freidberg, D. Furth, W. Kuslitzky and Dan Gerling. It also includes the extensive collection of the late Prof. DavidRosen from the Hebrew University, comprising mainly the Encyrtidae and Aphelinidae families, which have formed the basis for numerous taxonomic publications.
The Wasp Collection. The TAU wasp collection was founded mainly upon the hymenopterous material collected by H. Bytinski-Salz, between the 1940s to 1970s. In 1983 he donated his collection to the Department of Zoology, Tel-Aviv University. The collection has continued to grow, with the addition of donations from collecting scientists and amateur entomologists, as well with material collected since the 1960s by TAU staff entomologists, mainly J. Kugler, A. Freidberg, and L. Friedman.
The collection mostly comprises specimens collected within Israel, but there are also several thousand specimens originating from different areas of Africa and Asia. A large number of Central Asian wasps was contributed by S. Zonstein and I. Zonstein when they moved to Israel.
Currently, the collection includes over 45,000 pinned and labeled specimens representing ten families. Among these are a large number of pinned specimens – several hundred holotypes and paratypes - representing dozens of the region's endemics. The collection includes a number of highly interesting species, such as Cryptocheilus sanguinolentus, known only from a single specimen.
Representing the largest collection for the entire Near and Middle East, it is used intensively by both Israeli and foreign scientists, and important studies have been completed worldwide within recent years based wholly or partially on it. The continuous updating with new freshly-collected wasp material, the inventory that includes an application of all the latest nomenclatural innovations, as well as the databasing, are all factors predicting a good future for this collection.
The Bee Collection. Within the insect collections there is one, rich in both quantity and quality, that represents the most important pollinators in nature: the solitary and social bees, which form the Apoidea collection.
Based on our last inventory (2008), the bee collection includes approximately 25,000 specimens, with records going back from the 1930s to the present. About half of these specimens have been determined to the species level by local and foreign experts, totaling 1,200 species, distributed among 84 genera and eight families; an impressive number considering that only nine families are recognized worldwide. Most of these species refer to Israeli fauna, although exotic specimens are also represented at a relatively significant percentage. Among the outstanding collectors and donated collections are those of H. Bytinski-Salz, J. Wahrman, J. Kugler, C. O'Toole and A. Freidberg.
This collection is currently being recorded into the TAU database, a process that will allow future research into the extremely important concerning the spatio-temporal distribution of the bee fauna of Israel.
The Ant Collection. The ant collection includes about 40,000 dry specimens contained in 115 storage boxes and about the same number of ants conserved in alcohol. It was developed and curated by the late Prof. J. Kugler. Among the notable collectors, in addition to J. Kugler, are H. Bytinski-Salz, A. Freidberg, Q. Argaman, M. Pener, and D. Furth. Over the years several personal collections have been incorporated, such as those of E. Schmitz, J. Palmoni, H. Bytinski-Salz and J. Wahrman. The Schmitz collection is of special historical value, containing material identified by A. Forel. This provided the basis of the first review (1911) of the local ant fauna by a resident of the country, Ernst Schmitz.
At present, 667 taxa have been identified to at least the genus level (Kugler 2000, unpublished), 241 of them from Israel. The species from Israel belong to 46 genera in 11 subfamilies. The ant fauna of Israel comprises 49 species and subspecies known fromIsrael alone (25) or from Israel and adjacent countries; 157 taxa with broader distribution; and 16 established tramp species. The relative representation of tramp species in this family probably surpasses those in all other groups. Indeed, during recent years we have identified about 40 foreign ant specimens intercepted by the Plant Protection and Inspection Services of the Government of Israel. These ants, except for one, are presumably not established in Israel.