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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps, bees and ants)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola

The main defining characteristic of the order Hymenoptera is that the front and hind wings are held together by a series of little hooks called hamuli. There are two suborders of Hymenoptera, the Symphyta (sawflies) and the Apocryta. The sawflies are a diverse group in the northern Hemisphere but here in southern Africa their diversity is low. The Apocryta are by far the most diverse of the two suborders and include all the wasps, bees and ants. The Apocryta have a distinctive constriction or waist in the abdomen which is a good field character for separating them from other insects. Some flies (Diptera) often look like bees or wasps but they can be immediately distinguished from Hymenoptera (and other insects) by having only a single pair of wings and not having the constriction in the abdomen.

For more information on the Hymenoptera, go to Biodiversity Explorer's companion website:


For information on figwasps and fig trees, go to Biodiversity Explorer's other companion website: