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For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
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Order Hymenoptera - Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies

ichneumon wasp - Enicospilus purgatus Ichneumon Wasp 1 - male Cuckoo Wasp-Family Chrysididae - Chrysis Arizona oak gall wasp condo - Atrusca aggregata Wasp Megachile sp? - Megachile inermis Bee - Lasioglossum Caenochrysis doriae (Gribado) - Caenochrysis doriae - female
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
for the latest arrangement, see (1)
The higher taxonomy of Hymenoptera is in flux, so several traditional, artificial major groupings are retained for convenience both in the guide and many other sources. Recent advances in higher taxonomy summarized in(2)(3)(4).
Explanation of Names
Hymenoptera Linnaeus 1758
'membranous wing'
wasp: Old English waesp, waefs, cognate with the Latin vespa; bee goes back to the onomatopoetic Indo-European bhī 'bee'
ca. 18,000 spp. in >2000 genera in our area(5)(6); worldwide, >153,000 spp. described (132 families, 8423 genera)(1) and ~1,000,000 estimated(2) (up to 3M, according to some workers)
Families represented in our area
Artificial/non-monophyletic groups names appear in "quotes"; taxa not yet in the guide marked (*).
"Symphyta" (superfamilies not used in the guide)
Superfamily Xyeloidea: Xyelidae
Superfamily Pamphilioidea: Pamphiliidae
Superfamily Tenthredinoidea: Argidae · Cimbicidae · Diprionidae · Pergidae · Tenthredinidae
Superfamily Cephoidea: Cephidae
Superfamily Siricoidea: Anaxyelidae · Siricidae
Superfamily Xiphydrioidea: Xiphydriidae
Superfamily Orussoidea: Orussidae
Superfamily Cynipoidea: Cynipidae · Figitidae (incl. Charipidae) · Ibaliidae · Liopteridae
Superfamily Formicoidea: Formicidae
Superfamily Scolioidea: Scoliidae
0.2‒115 mm, typically 2‒30 mm(5)
Characteristics based on(5)(7):
Typically two pairs of wings, with forewings larger, but some groups (such as ants) wingless in most life stages.
Antennae typically with 10 or more segments. Often 13 segments in male, 12 in female, but sometimes as few as 3 or up to 60 segments.
Antennae longer than head, but usually not highly elongated (longer than head and thorax combined). Highly elongated in some parasitic groups.
Females have prominent ovipositor, modified in some groups to be a "stinger", used to paralyze prey and for defense.
Chewing mouthparts, but some groups have a "tongue" used for lapping up fluids, such as nectar.
Several groups highly social (eusocial), with separate reproductive and worker castes.
Excellent manual for identification (down to subfamily level):(8)
Family Argidae - Argid Sawflies

Family Cephidae - Stem Sawflies
Family Cimbicidae - Cimbicid Sawflies

Family Diprionidae - Conifer Sawflies

Family Orussidae - Parasitic Wood Wasps
Family Pamphiliidae - Webspinning and Leafrolling Sawflies

Family Siricidae - Horntails

Family Tenthredinidae - Common Sawflies

Family Xiphydriidae - Xiphydriid Wood Wasps
Family Stephanidae - Stephanid Wasps


Family Pelecinidae - Pelecinids
Family Proctotrupidae - Proctotrupids


Family Evaniidae - Ensign Wasps

Family Gasteruptiidae - Gasteruptiid

Family Agaonidae - Fig wasps
winged female wingless female

Family Chalcididae - Chalcid Wasps

Family Encyrtidae - Encyrtids


Family Pteromalidae - Pteromalids


Family Braconidae - Braconid Wasps

Family Ichneumonidae - Ichneumonid Wasps

Aculeata - Bees, Ants, and other Stinging Wasps
Apoidea I – Bees (Anthophila)
Family Andrenidae - Mining Bees

Family Apidae - Cuckoo, Carpenter, Digger, Bumble, and Honey Bees

Family Colletidae - Plasterer Bees, Masked or Yellow-faced Bees

Family Halictidae - Sweat Bees

Family Megachilidae - Leaf-cutter bees, Mason Bees, and allies

Family Melittidae - Melittid Bees

Apoidea II - Apoid Wasps (traditional Sphecidae)
Ampulicidae - Cockroach wasps

Sphecidae - Thread waisted wasps

Bethylidae - Bethylids

Family Chrysididae - Cuckoo Wasps

Dryinidae - Dryinids

Embolemidae - Embolemids

Family Mutillidae – Velvet Ants
Family Pompilidae – Spider Wasps

Family Sapygidae - Sapygid Wasps

Family Scoliidae - Scoliid Wasps

Family Chyphotidae - Chyphotid Wasps

Family Thynnidae - Thynnid Wasps

Family Sierolomorphidae - Sierolomorphid Wasps

Family Tiphiidae - Tiphiid Wasps

Family Rhopalosomatidae - Rhopalosomatid Wasps

Family Vespidae - Yellowjackets, Paper Wasps, and Hornets; Potter, Mason and Pollen Wasps
Many groups are predatory, feeding their young with meat, usually of other insects. Some groups provision their young with pollen, and many adults take nectar.
Life Cycle
Complete metamorphosis (holometabolus). Some larvae (such as sawflies) are caterpillar-like, most are grub-like, lacking legs.
Males usually develop from unfertilized eggs in this order, a feature of their biology which likely contributed to the evolution of sociality independently in several groups.
In many groups, young are provisioned by the adults, however in many groups the larvae are parasitoids (predatory parasites) of other insects. Larvae of sawflies feed on plants, and these are believed to be a basal group, linking hymenoptera with related orders, such as Lepidoptera. Predatory, provisioning, and parasitoid life-styles are believed to have evolved in groups descended from herbivorous (as larvae) hymenoptera.
Symphyta = Early branching groups without a wasp waist
Apocrita = Bees, wasps, ants, with a wasp waist.

Apocrita is broken into two groups
Prasitic Apocrita
Aculeata ('Stinging' wasps, bees, ants)
See Also
wasps/bees are mimicked by members of several insect orders, spiders, &c.
Works Cited
1.Order Hymenoptera. In: Zhang Z-Q (ed) Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classif. and survey of taxonomic richness
Aguiar AP, Deans AR, Engel MS, Forshage M, Huber JT, Jennings JT, Johnson NF, Lelej AS, Longino JT, Lohrmann V, Mikó I, Ohl M. 2013. Zootaxa 3703: 51–62.
2.Phylogeny and classification of Hymenoptera
Sharkey M.J. 2007. Zootaxa 1668: 521–548.
3.Phylogenetic relationships among superfamilies of Hymenoptera
Sharkey M.J., Carpenter J.M., Vilhelmsen L., et al. 2012. Cladistics 28: 80―112.
4.Evolutionary history of the Hymenoptera
Peters et al. 2017. Current Biology 27: 1–6.
5.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
6.Catalog of Hymenoptera in America North of Mexico
Karl V. Krombein, Paul D. Hurd, Jr., David R. Smith, and B. D. Burks. 1979. Smithsonian Institution Press.
7.Photographic Atlas of Entomology and Guide To Insect Identification
James L. Castner. 2000. Feline Press.
8.Hymenoptera of the world: an identification guide to families
Goulet H., Huber J., eds. 1993. Agriculture Canada Publication 1894/E. 668 pp.