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Temporal range: Early Jurassic–Recent
Seleucus cuneiformis (Ichneumonidae)
Vespula germanica (Vespidae)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
(unranked): Unicalcarida
Suborder: Apocrita
Gerstaecker, 1867[1]

Apocrita is a suborder of insects in the order Hymenoptera. It includes wasps, bees, and ants, and consists of many families. It contains the most advanced hymenopterans and is distinguished from Symphyta by the narrow "waist" (petiole) formed between the first two segments of the actual abdomen; the first abdominal segment is fused to the thorax, and is called the propodeum. Therefore, it is general practice, when discussing the body of an apocritan in a technical sense, to refer to the mesosoma and metasoma (or gaster) rather than the "thorax" and "abdomen", respectively. The evolution of a constricted waist was an important adaption for the parasitoid lifestyle of the ancestral apocritan, allowing more maneuverability of the female's ovipositor.[2] The ovipositor either extends freely or is retracted, and may be developed into a stinger for both defense and paralyzing prey. Larvae are legless and blind, and either feed inside a host (plant or animal) or in a nest cell provisioned by their mothers.

Apocrita has historically been split into two groups, Parasitica and Aculeata. Aculeata is a clade whose name is in standard use. "Parasitica" is not a clade, as it is paraphyletic: the clade would contain the Aculeata. "Parasitica" is therefore a rankless grouping in many present classifications, if it appears at all.

Parasitica comprises the majority of hymenopteran insects, its members living as parasitoids.[3][4] Most species are small, with the ovipositor adapted for piercing. In some hosts, the parasitoids induce metamorphosis prematurely, and in others it is prolonged. There are even species that are hyperparasites, or parasitoids on other parasitoids.[5] The Parasitica lay their eggs inside or on another insect (egg, larva or pupa) and their larvae grow and develop within or on that host. The host is nearly always killed. Many parasitic hymenopterans are used as biological control agents to control pests, such as caterpillars, true bugs and hoppers, flies, and weevils.[6]

Aculeata is a monophyletic group that includes those species in which the female's ovipositor is modified into a stinger to inject venom. Groups within Aculeata include the familiar ants, bees, and various types of parasitic and predatory wasps; it also includes all of the social hymenopterans.[7] Among the nonparasitic and nonsocial Aculeata, larvae are fed with captured prey (typically alive and paralyzed) or may be fed pollen and nectar. The social Aculeata feed their young prey (paper wasps and hornets), or pollen and nectar (bees), or perhaps seeds, fungi, or nonviable eggs (ants).

Extant families and superfamilies[edit]

The Apocrita contains a large number of families. Some traditional taxa such as the Parasitica (containing many families of parasitoid wasps) have been found on molecular analysis to be paraphyletic. Parasitoidism evolved once, and it is found today across most Apocritan families, though it has been secondarily lost several times. The phylogenetic tree gives a condensed overview of the phylogeny, illustrated with major groups. The sawflies are paraphyletic as the Apocrita evolved inside that group. The tree is not fully resolved.[7][8][9][3]

Cladogram of Apocrita after Peters et al.(2017)[3]



  1. ^ Gerstaecker, C.E.A. (1867). "Ueber die Gattung Oxybelus Latr. und die bei Berlin vorkommenden Arten derselben". Zeitschrift für die Gesammten Naturwissenschaften (in German). 30 (7): 1–144.
  2. ^ Grimaldi, David; Engel, Michael S. (2005). Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press. p. 414. ISBN 978-0-521-82149-0.
  3. ^ a b c Peters, Ralph S.; Krogmann, Lars; Mayer, Christoph; Donath, Alexander; Gunkel, Simon; Meusemann, Karen; Kozlov, Alexey; Podsiadlowski, Lars; Petersen, Malte (2017). "Evolutionary History of the Hymenoptera". Current Biology. 27 (7): 1013–1018. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.01.027. hdl:2434/801122. PMID 28343967.
  4. ^ Heraty, John; Ronquist, Fredrik; Carpenter, James M.; Hawks, David; Schulmeister, Susanne; Dowling, Ashley P.; Murray, Debra; Munro, James; Wheeler, Ward C. (2011). "Evolution of the hymenopteran megaradiation". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 60 (1): 73–88. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.04.003. PMID 21540117.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Daniel J. (2009). "Hyperparasitism". Encyclopedia of Insects. Elsevier. pp. 486–488. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-374144-8.00138-7. ISBN 978-0-12-374144-8.
  6. ^ "Parasitoid Wasps (Hymenoptera)". University of Maryland. Archived from the original on 27 August 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b Branstetter, Michael G.; Danforth, Bryan N.; Pitts, James P.; Faircloth, Brant C.; Ward, Philip S.; Buffington, Matthew L.; Gates, Michael W.; Kula, Robert R.; Brady, Seán G. (2017). "Phylogenomic Insights into the Evolution of Stinging Wasps and the Origins of Ants and Bees". Current Biology. 27 (7): 1019–1025. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.027. PMID 28376325.
  8. ^ Schulmeister, S. (2003). "Simultaneous analysis of basal Hymenoptera (Insecta), introducing robust-choice sensitivity analysis". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 79 (2): 245–275. doi:10.1046/j.1095-8312.2003.00233.x.
  9. ^ Schulmeister, S. "Symphyta". Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2016.

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