HomeWasp classificationExpeditionsLinksFigWebBiodiversity ExplorerPermits

Afrotropical Vespoidea

(Life: Kingdom: Metazoa (animals); Phylum: Arthropoda; Class: Hexapoda; Order: Hymenoptera)














Bradynobaenidae are possibly parasitoids of Sun spiders (Solifugae).  Mutillidae are ectoparasitoids of larvae or pupa of other insects. Pompilidae are predators of spiders. Sapygidae are cleptoparasites or ectoparasitoids of bee and wasp larva. Tiphiidae are ectoparasitoids of subterranean or wood-boring beetle larvae (Scarabaeidae, Cerambycidae, Cicindelidae, Tenebrionidae). The female stings each larva before laying an egg on it. Rhopalosomatidae are ectoparasitoids of nymphal crickets (Gryllidae) forming extruding sac-like structures similar to Dryinidae. Scoliidae are external parasitoids of beetle larvae (mostly Scarabaeidae) that live in soil or decaying vegetable matter. Potter or Mason wasps (Eumeninae) nest in holes in the ground, in hollow stems, or construct nests from clay. Females lay an egg in each individual cell and provision the cells with partially paralysed caterpillars. The cell is then sealed. The masarine Pollen wasps provision their nests with pollen and nectar. Paper wasps (Vespinae) are social, constructing communal paper nests. Larvae are fed on chewed-up, soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars.


The re-classification of the Vespoidea into a number of superfamilies proposed by Pilgrim et al. (2008) and adopted by Peters et al. (2017) and Branstetter et al. (2018) has not been followed here yet, for reasons outlined in Brothers (2019). The exception is recognition of the family Thynnidae incorporating various taxa previously included in the Tiphiidae, a hypothesis that appears to have fairly robust support (albeit only based on molecular evidence), and recognition of which has been widely adopted across various platforms. We retain this newly proposed family together with the historically recognized families within the single superfamily Vespoidea, until such time that stronger phylogenetic evidence, based on both molecular as well as morphological appraisal, becomes available for supporting additional splitting at superfamily level within this group.


Aguiar AP, Deans AR, Engel MS, Forshage M, Huber JT, Jennings JT, Johnson NF, Lelej AS, Longino JT, Lohrmann V, Miko I. 2013. Order Hymenoptera. In: Zhang, Z.-Q.(Ed.) Animal Biodiversity: An Outline of Higher-level Classification and Survey of Taxonomic Richness (Addenda 2013). Zootaxa 3703: 51-62. http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3703.1.12

Bequaert, J.C. 1918. A revision of the Vespidae of the Belgian Congo based on the collection of the American Museum Congo Expedition: with a list of Ethiopian diplopterous wasps. Bulletin of the AMNH 39: 1-384.

Branstetter MG, Childers AK, Cox-Foster D, Hopper KR, Kapheim KM, Toth AL, Worley KC. 2018. Genomes of the Hymenoptera. Current Opinion in Insect Science 25: 65-75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cois.2017.11.008

Brothers D.J. 2019. Aculeate Hymenoptera: Phylogeny and Classification. In: Starr C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Social Insects. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_1-1

Brothers, D.J. & Finnamore A.T. 1993. Superfamily Vespoidea (pp. 161-278). In GOULET, H. & HUBER, J. (eds). Hymenoptera of the World: an identification guide to families. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Canada, 668 pp.

Debevec AH, Cardinal S, Danforth BN. 2012. Identifying the sister group to the bees: a molecular phylogeny of Aculeata with an emphasis on the superfamily Apoidea. Zoologica scripta 41: 527-35. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1463-6409.2012.00549.x

Dollfuss, H. 1990. Aculeate Hymenoptera collected 1985 in the Republic of Central Africa (Sphecidae, Eumenidae, Vespidae, Pompilidae, Chrysididae and Scoliidae). Zeitschrift der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Österreichischer Entomologen 42(3/4): 121–124.

Gess, S.K. & Gess, F.W. 2014. Wasps and bees in southern Africa. SANBI Biodiversity Series 24. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. 320 pp.

Johnson BR, Borowiec ML, Chiu JC, Lee EK, Atallah J, Ward PS. 2013. Phylogenomics resolves evolutionary relationships among ants, bees, and wasps. Current Biology 23: 2058–2062. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2013.08.050

Peters RS, Krogmann L, Mayer C, Donath A, Gunkel S, Meusemann K, Kozlov A, Podsiadlowski L, Petersen M, Lanfear R, Diez PA. 2017. Evolutionary history of the Hymenoptera. Current Biology 27:1013-1018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.01.027

Pilgrim EM, von Dohlen CD, Pitts JP. 2008. Molecular phylogenetics of Vespoidea indicate paraphyly of the superfamily and novel relationships of its component families and subfamilies. Zoologica Scripta 37: 539–560. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1463-6409.2008.00340.x

Sharkey, M., 2007. Phylogeny and classification of Hymenoptera. Zootaxa 1668: 521–548.

Sharkey, M. J., Carpenter, J. M., Vilhelmsen, L., Heraty, J., Liljeblad, J., Dowling, A. P.G., Schulmeister, S., Murray, D., Deans, A. R., Ronquist, F., Krogmann, L. and Wheeler, W. C. 2012. Phylogenetic relationships among superfamilies of Hymenoptera. Cladistics 28: 80–112. doi: 10.1111/j.1096-0031.2011.00366.x


Photographs © Simon van Noort and Hamish Robertson (Iziko Museums); or © Victor Kolyada (Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg) or © Vida van der Walt (Pretoria).

Web author Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum)


Citation: van Noort, S. 2021. WaspWeb: Hymenoptera of the Afrotropical region. URL: www.waspweb.org (accessed on <day/month/year>).

Copyright 2004-2021 Iziko Museums of South Africa

customisable counter