Introduction to the British families


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HYMENOPTERA are among the most economically important groups of animals, with some species responsible for destroying huge quantities of crops while others are predators controlling the ravages of other insects. Many species are important pollinators of flowers and trees and the world is facing problems with crop pollination, as their numbers have declined over recent years. It is an extensive order, with over 100,000 species described worldwide. My current MapMate database (in July 2011) contains over 11,300 records of 764 species. 6900 of these records come from Vice-counties 5 & 6 (the ‘old’ county of Somerset), covering 675 species of Hymenoptera.

To start studying this varied and fascinating order faced me with a huge amount of research, Eventually it led to the production of a book of scientific and descriptive terms needed to fully understand the various keys used for identifying the many species involved (‘British Hymenoptera: glossary for use with identification keys’). Some of the keys for identification go back over many decades and during this time technical terms inevitably change. Without a comprehensive guide to these terms, it is impossible to make sense of many older keys still in use.

The rest of this section is an outline of what I have discovered and shows what is meant by the Order Hymenoptera and how to find out more about it.


The Order Hymenoptera does not have a collective English name but it is divided into three parts that do.

In the individual sections, families & sub-families are listed, with comments on points of interest.

SUB-ORDER SYMPHYTA – Sawflies & Wood-wasps (without an obvious waist)             


SUB-ORDER APOCRITA – (Hymenoptera with a ‘wasp-waist’)

PARASITICA – Parasitic wasps & Ichneumons (basically stingless, many with more than 16 antennal segments)


ACULEATA – Bees, Wasps & Ants (stinging insects, antennae with less than 13 segments)







Keys to sawflies




Keys to Parasitica


Bees, Wasps, Ants

Keys to Bees, Wasps, Ants

Insects in oak and rose galls

Gall insect gallery

A hymenopteran library

Top - Hymenoptera




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