Hymenoptera is an order of the animal kingdom that includes wasps and bees. There are 115,000 species under this order and are primarily known for their contributions to pollinating. Hymenoptera species are characterized by two pairs of wings and three body regions.
The Scientific Classification of Hymenoptera
Scientific classifications are used to congregate species and organisms in an ordered system, otherwise known as taxonomy. Hymenoptera is a classification known as an “order,” which comes four classifications down from domain, the largest classification.
Hymenoptera is an order of the class Endopterygota. Species that fall under Endopterygota include flies, butterflies, and beetles. Orders under this class mean that all organisms within go through the four growth stages of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Another word to describe these stages is metamorphosis.
Hymenoptera comes from the words “membrane” and “wings” in Greek. “Membrane wings” is the direct translation for the order’s name and describes the elastic wings of species. However, some Hymenopteran species do not have wings.
Why Are Hymenopterans Important?
Pollinators include hummingbirds and butterflies. However, Hymenopterans are responsible for vast pollination around the world.
There are a couple of ways Hymenopterans benefit the ecosystem and human life. Pollination is one, but pest control is another. Some species have an appetite for bugs and pests that destroy plants. Hymenopterans can pollinate, control pest populations, or both. The most familiar of these are bees and wasps.
Because some of these insects effectively contain other species, they can be considered parasitical. A parasitical or predatory insect is not necessarily a bad thing and actually helps humans grow and maintain necessary crops.
What Kind of Insects Belong to the Hymenoptera Order?
Hymenoptera encompasses ant, bee, wasp, and sawfly species. There are around 130 known families within this order. Some scientists categorize these families under non-taxonomic titles.
- Symphyta: Sawflies, horntails, and wood wasps. These insects cannot sting, nor do they have narrow waists like other Hymenopterans.
- Parasitica: Parasitoid or parasitic wasps. These wasps use insects like caterpillars as their hosts. They rely on their parasitical nature to survive.
- Aculeata: Ants, bees, and stinging wasps. These are the insects most people are familiar with. Most of them have stingers.
The variety of Hymenopteran insects may seem large and possibly unrelated, but they all have at least one characteristic in common. For example, all of these insects have a head, thorax, and abdomen. Another commonality is mouthparts that bite and suck.
Anatomy of Hymenopterans
Hymenopterans are most likely to have some of these features.
|Size||As short as 0.008 inch or as long as 2 inches.|
|Body Regions||Head, thorax, and abdomen.|
|Wings||Four wings that include a pair of forewings and a pair of hindwings.|
|Mouth||Mouthparts that bite and suck.|
|Head||Antennas on top of their heads.|
|Eyes||Two compound eyes and three ocelli (simple) eyes.|
|Ovipositor||Female reproductive organ for laying eggs. Some species have ovipositors evolved into stingers.|
An additional common feature among Hymenopterans is their reproductive abilities.
Hymenopteran species use both asexual and sexual reproduction.
Unfertilized eggs hatch as males, while females can only come from fertilized eggs. This sex development phenomenon is called haplodiploidy. Sexual reproduction becomes important for species like bees which rely on females to maintain hives.
The queens of colonies are usually the only ones that can birth female eggs because drones mate with them. Worker females can lay male eggs since they don’t require fertilization to hatch.
Parthenogenesis refers to asexual reproductive abilities which are characterized in Hymenopterans. This system is also present in some plants.
The presence of a female egg cell meets a diploid egg within a female’s body. This makes it possible for drones to be born without fertilization. This differs from how sperm cells meet egg cells in order for female eggs to hatch.
Polyembryony was first found in insects, including Hymenopterans. This refers to how a single egg can produce more than one embryo. This is how queens of insect colonies can reproduce throughout their entire lifetimes.
Hymenoptera doesn’t have a single diet that is followed by all species. The group includes herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores.
The most common food sources are flowers, pollen, larvae, honey, nectar, dead insects, and meat.
Social and Solitary Hymenopterans
Social species within Hymenoptera include honeybees and paper wasps. There are also solitary bees, wasps, and others.
Colonies form from social insects and usually involve a caste system, including queens, workers, and drones. They reside in hives or nests. Eusocial is another term that describes the science of social animals like these.
Solitary Hymenopterans may have nests, but they don’t have a colony. They’re usually carnivores and parasitic. Solitary species like hunting wasps focus on feeding their offspring.
Hymenopterans communicate through chemicals and pheromones. Researchers continue to look into the science of eusocial communication, like how bees “dance” to notify others of nearby food sources.
This order of species is characterized by body features, reproductive abilities, and more. Although different Hymenopterans like ants and wasps don’t seem to have similarities, a closer look reveals how the two species relate to each other and other Hymenopterans.