Tag Archives: Hymenoptera

Fall 2014 Interesting Finds: Bees (Order: Hymenoptera)

Bees (Order: Hymenoptera)

Common eastern bumblebee
Common eastern bumblebee

 Bees, like ants, are actually a specialized form of wasp. They play an important role in pollinating flowering plants. In July 2013 the world’s 20,000th bee species was officially described by a researcher from York University in Toronto. Your Malaise traps collected 6 species of bees and among those were the red-belted bumble bee (Bombus rufocinctus) and the honey bee (Apis mellifera).

The common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) is the most often encountered bumblebee across much of eastern North America. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees in the genus Bombus form colonies which last only one season. During the winter, mated female bumble bees hide in sheltered places and emerge in the spring to start new colonies in cozy places such as old mouse nests. Once her new home is tidy and her eggs are laid, the queen covers them with wax sheets for protection and incubates the eggs by lying over them for a period of time.

Common eastern bumblebee

Currently Bombus impatiens is being reared and transported to some areas as a commercial replacement for honey bee pollination. Although introducing this species may be very helpful for the agriculture industry, there are some trade-offs as well. “Managed” pollination programs have introduced this eastern species to western North America, and in some places, such as California and Mexico, Bombus impatiens is now displacing native bee species.

Fall 2014 SMTP Interesting Finds: Wasps (Order: Hymenoptera)

Wasps (Order: Hymenoptera)

The Hymenoptera are one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. Over 150,000 species are recognized, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν (hymen): membrane and πτερόν (pteron): wing. During the Fall 2014 School Malaise Trap Program you collected 1058 species of Hymenoptera across all participating schools. We have highlighted some of your interesting finds below.

Fairyfly (Anagrus ustulatus)

Fairyflies, despite their name, are actually very tiny wasps, and can be found in temperate and tropical regions throughout the world. They average only 0.5 to 1.0 mm long and they include the world’s smallest known insect, the Alaptus fairyfly, with a body length of only 0.139 mm, and the smallest known flying insect, at only 0.15 mm long.

While many insects form complicated social groups – think of ants and bees, for example – the fairyfly is just the opposite. Although they get together for mating, there’s no courtship and no family groups among fairyflies. This makes them relatively hard to study, which is why much of their behavior is still a mystery to scientists.

Fairy Fly2
Fairyfly (Anagrus ustulatus)

Fairyflies are some of the most common chalcid wasps, but are rarely noticed by humans because of their extremely small sizes. This apparent invisibility, their delicate bodies, and their hair-fringed wings have earned them their common name. Their adult lifespans are very short, usually lasting for only a few days. All known fairyflies are parasitoids of the eggs of other insects, and several species have been successfully used as biological pest control agents.

Fairyflies were abundantly caught during the Fall 2014 School Malaise Trap program, with specimens being collected at 49 of the 59 participating schools!