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Order Hymenoptera - Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies

Black and Yellow Mud Dauber? - Sceliphron caementarium Golden Green Sweat Bee - Dorsal - Lasioglossum bee with yellow spot on face - Peponapis pruinosa wasp - Ancistrocerus ichneumon wasp - Dolichomitus - female Long-horned Bee - Eucera Ichneumonoid wasp cocoon? Sawfly Larva
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
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(1)(2)(3).
Explanation of Names
Hymenoptera: Greek hymen 'membrane' + pteron 'wing'.
wasp: Old English waesp, waefs; the Indo-European root was *wops- (original meaning related to weave); Latin vespa is of the same origin; bee goes ca. 5,000 years back to the Indo-European bhī 'bee' (echoic of the buzzing) (Partridge 1958)
ca. 18,000 spp. in >2000 genera in our area(4)(5); worldwide, >153,000 spp. described (132 families, 8423 genera)(6) and ~1,000,000 estimated(1) (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 Diaprioidea: Diapriidae
Superfamily Cynipoidea: Cynipidae · Figitidae (incl. Charipidae) · Ibaliidae · *Liopteridae
Superfamily Formicoidea: Formicidae
Superfamily Scolioidea: Scoliidae
0.2-115 mm, typically 2-30 mm(4)
Characteristics based on(4)(7):
Typically two pairs of wings, with forewings usually larger than hindwings, but some groups (such as ants) wingless in most life stages.
Wings have few cross-veins, these are angled to form closed cells.
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.
Complete metamorphosis.
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
Varied. Many adults are found on flowers.
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). Life cycle has egg, larva, pupa, and adult. 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 plant-feeding (as larvae) hymenoptera.
About classification: A recurring event in Hymenopteran evolution is one branch that becomes so successful it seems like the main tree, or at least equal to its parent and "aunt and uncle" branches.
We think of sawflies, horntails, and wood wasps as a small branch of the Hymenoptera (the Symphyta), but the Aculeata are really just an offshoot from one of their many branches. We likewise think of the non-stinging, parasitic Aculeata like the Ichneumenoids as another branch, but the stinging hymenoptera known as Apocrita are just an offshoot of one of their branches. In the same way, one group of the Apocrita, the Apoid Wasps, gave rise to the bees, while another, the Vespoid Wasps, gave rise to the ants. In each case, the new offshoot is different enough that it's easier to treat the groups it came from as if they're a separate branch- they have more in common with each other than with their offshoot. That's why BugGuide has groups like the Symphyta and the parasitic Apocrita separate from the Aculeata, and bees and ants separate from the families they came from. These are for convenience, and our arrangement shouldn't be taken as scientific fact.
About stings: Ordinarily, Hymenoptera stings will only cause local pain and swelling. However, some individuals may be allergic to Hymenoptera stings. An allergic reaction to Hymenoptera stings occurs once the victim becomes sensitized to the venom from a previous sting. The allergic reaction is caused by the immune system, which has now been oversensitized to the venom and releases histamines into the bloodstream. Histamines dilate blood capillaries, causing the skin to appear red and feel warm, and also make the capillaries more permeable, which allows fluid to escape into the tissues. This causes swelling, which is manifested as rapidly appearing hives, accompanied by severe itching. In a severe allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock, the tissues of the throat swell and the victim may have difficulty breathing and, unless promptly treated, death may result.
for the latest arrangement, see(6)
See Also
wasps/bees are mimicked by many flies, moths, mantidflies, beetles, true bugs, spiders, and others --sometimes very convincingly.
Internet References
Discover Life (info and keys)
Works Cited
1.Phylogeny and classification of Hymenoptera
Sharkey M.J. 2007. Zootaxa 1668: 521–548.
2.Phylogenetic relationships among superfamilies of Hymenoptera
Sharkey M.J., Carpenter J.M., Vilhelmsen L., et al. 2012. Cladistics 28(1): 80-112.
3.Evolutionary history of the Hymenoptera
Peters et al. 2017. Current Biology 27: 1–6.
4.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
5.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.
6.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.
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.
9.Kroupa A.S. (2020) The Hymenoptera of Central America eXtended. Version 2.0