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National Insect Week returns in 2020

Bees, ants & wasps

ORDER: HYMENOPTERA

(Ancient Greek - hymen = membrane ; pteron = wing)

Critically important pollinators in every garden, many small wasps are parasitic, others induce galls on plants. Some show very complex social behaviours.

Insects in this order

  • Black garden ant

    © Peter Barnard Black ant queen, workers and pupae ( Lasius niger ) All adult Hymenoptera have a very narrow waist in the middle of their body, and this is clearly seen in the wingless worker caste of ants. Ants live in large colonies and are well-known insects in Britain’s countryside and...
  • Buff-tailed Bumblebee

    © Robin Williams Bombus terrestris nest Well known for their pollinating abilities, there are over 250 different species of bee in Britain. As well as the famous Honey bee Apis mellifera, there are 'true' bumblebees, cuckoo bumblebees that parasitise 'true' bumblebee nests, and solitary...
  • Ruby-Tailed Wasps

    © Peter White Ruby-tailed wasp, Chrysis ignita . Commended 2008 NIW Photography Competition adult category The best-known Hymenoptera are conspicuous insects such as hornets, honeybees, bumblebees, common wasps and wood ants. There are, however, over 6500 different species of hymenopteran...

Did you know?

Most poisonous

There are lots of contenders here – possibly the pretty red and blue rove beetle Paederus – very, very tiny amounts of its poison have been used to cure chronic ulceration in people. Ladybirds are pretty poisonous (and pretty) and can bleed foul-tasting poisonous brightly coloured blood from their knees.