Harvard University's Caribbean Insects: Thysanura

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The order Hymenoptera includes sawflies, bees, wasps, and ants and is one of the largest insect orders, with over 100,000 described species. The Hymenoptera are also remarkably diverse ecologically, with species ranging from solitary parasitoids to eusocial nectar-feeders. Many build extraordinary nests that range from the 1 cm diameter mud pots (photo lower right) to enormous hives of paper made by wasps from wood and saliva. In terms of interactions with humans, the Hymenoptera are almost certainly the most beneficial insects. Not only do bees provide us with honey and wax, but they and other hymenopterans are important plant pollinators, and many wasps are predators or parasites of insect pests.

All winged hymenopterans have two pairs of membranous wings with relatively reduced venation. The fore and hind wings are coupled by the hamuli, rows of small hooks on the hind wings, which fasten to folds on the fore wings. While all sources seem to agree on these characters, there is apparently some disagreement about which is the basis for the name of the order. Most often, Hymenoptera is said to come from the Greek hymen ("membrane," in reference to the wings) and pteron (wing); other sources report that it derives from the Greek god of marriage, Hymeno, and describes the coupling of the wings by the hamuli.


Please browse and download our Field Guides to insect families and see our Caribbean Taxonomic Literature lists for available PDFs.


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