The parasitoid wasp subfamily Braconinae is dominated by the type genus Bracon, a genus which probably now contains more than 1000 described species and no reliable subgeneric groupings. By analysing 288 D2-3 rDNA sequences in representative braconines we show that the genus is paraphyletic. It is unlikely that sufficient molecular data will be amassed, or new morphological characters discovered, in the foreseeable future to divide this huge amorphous genus into reciprocally monophyletic clades. As we believe that it is unsatisfactory to leave this situation as it stands we propose that Bracon should be treated formally as a likely paraphyletic taxon, and we argue that the ICZN should consider creating such a category On the basis of our estimated phylogeny we also propose a revised classification for this subfamily that avoids paraphyletic tribes and subtribes, replacing several of these with informal genus groups. (C) 2001 The Linnean Society of London.