Abia

Taxonomy

Family: Cimbicidae
Family common name: cimbicid sawflies
Subfamily: Abiinae
Genus: Abia Leach, 1817
Subgenera: none

Background

The family Cimbicidae is relatively uncommon and little-studied in North America. However, their large size and metallic reflections make species in the family somewhat conspicuous (Taeger et al. 1998). Cimbicidae are robust, somewhat bee-shaped, with long hairs and clubbed antennae (Smith 1993).

Abia is a genus of small cimbicids, they are normally only 10–15 mm in length (Taeger et al. 1998). They are variable in color, but generally black with faint metallic reflections (Taeger et al. 2010).

Diversity

Worldwide, there are 50 described species restricted to the Northern Hemisphere. Only four occur in North America, one of which was introduced from Europe (Taeger et al. 2010).

Key to European species of Abia (including A. lonicerae which was introduced to North America), can be found in Taeger 1998.

Diagnostic characteristics

May be confused with

Abia can be confused with other Cimbicidae. They can be distinguished by the downwardly diverging eyes, as opposed to parallel or downwardly converging, and the constricted anal cell of the fore wing (Taeger et al. 1998).

Exotic pest species of concern

Abia lonicerae was introduced to New York via Europe in the mid-twentieth century. It has since become established, but because of its low abundance and non-agricultural host plant, it does not have pest status (BugGuide 2019).

Host associations

In Europe and Asia, the hosts of Abia are herbaceous plants in the Caprifoliaceae and Dipsacaceae. The only verified host for North American species is Lonicera spp. (honeysuckle) (Liston et al. 2014).

Life history

The female Abia oviposits into a leaf margin in pairs or small clusters. The young larvae feed gregariously on the foliage of a plant and eat all but the main veins of the leaf. Older larvae feed individually. The larvae of Abia are caterpillar-like, variable in color, but often with a brown or black head capsule and sometimes with black spots and spiracles on the body. At maturity, they can measure up to 33 mm in length (Liston and Späth 2006).

When disturbed by a predator, larvae react by excreting a clear defensive liquid, a behavior called “reflex bleeding”, then fall to the ground, where they become difficult to see. At maturity, the larva will fall to the soil surface and build a cocoon in leaf litter. Though it is unknown if they remain pre-pupa or pupa, they overwinter in these cocoons. After pupation, the adult chews a circular hole in the cocoon and emerges (Harizanova et al. 2012, Liston and Späth 2006).

The adult is active during the day. Females have been observed feeding on flowers of Apiaceae, particularly Heracleum sp. (cow parsnip), Thysselinum palustre, and Angelica sylvestris (wild angelica) in Europe (Savina and Liston 2009).

Distribution

World: This genus occurs throughout the Holarctic region, with the highest diversity and abundance recorded in China (Wei et al. 2006). They are generally uncommon throughout their range, especially in Europe and North America (Harizanova et al. 2012).

North America: Abia occurs through most of southern Canada and the United States, excluding the deep south. Abia americana only occurs in the west and is recorded in Alberta, Arizona, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Abia lonicerae is introduced from Europe and is recorded in Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. The other two Abia species occur in the Northeast and Midwest, as far north as Quebec and as far south as Arkansas (BugGuide 2019).

Map data from: GBIF.org (26 June 2019) GBIF Occurrence Download Abia

Details about data used for maps can be found here.

Abia americana female lateral habitus; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana female lateral habitus; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana female dorsal habitus; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana female dorsal habitus; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana female face; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana female face; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana wings; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana wings; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana female dorsal habitus; photo by J. Orr, WSDA

Abia americana female dorsal habitus; photo by J. Orr, WSDA