Encyclopedia of Social Insects

Living Edition
| Editors: Christopher Starr

Aculeate Hymenoptera: Phylogeny and Classification

  • Denis J. BrothersEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_1-1


The Hymenoptera are one of the largest orders of insects, comprising almost 160,000 described extant species with a true total of possibly over one million species. Most species in the larval stage are parasitoids of other insects [1]. The order is divided into two subgroups. The Symphyta, or sawflies and horntails, are a paraphyletic assemblage of mainly plant feeders with caterpillar-like larvae and in adults a broad connection between the thorax and abdomen. The much more diverse Apocrita are a monophyletic group, with legless larvae and mainly parasitoids or predators of arthropods, the adults with a strong constriction between the first and second abdominal segments. This “wasp waist” confers great maneuverability on the functional abdomen, or metasoma. Within the Apocrita, there are again two major groupings, sometimes considered infraorders, but more usually regarded as informal ones. The larger group is the Parasitica (another paraphyletic assemblage), mainly...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalPietermaritzburgSouth Africa